Thursday, May 15, 2008

Things must be bad

Just how excruciating was Gordon Brown on the Today programme this morning? He still hasn't lost his old interviewing technique - of bull-dozing his way throguh, talking over the interviewer and refusing to address questions directly. Matthew Parris once said, ages ago, that Brown viweed every interview as a damage-limitation exercise - how little can I get away with saying? Very, very little if today's evidence is to be relied upon.
Then there was the continued incoherency of Brown's message: We feel your pain, but everything's all right really, and if it isn't it's America's fault. And there's the ultimately piddling nature of the measures being taken to counter-act all this: £200m on housing, that's what, 1,000 houses? And there's the blatant lying about borrowing to invest. Brown's 'Golden Rule' (that has been devalued more than the benighted dollar) was only to borrow to invest - it's hard, however it is spun, for Brown to portray the tax giveaway as an investment. It isn't. It's an 'unfunded tax cut' - and we know what Brown thinks about them.
There might be hope for Brown - according at least to this New Statesman article.
A more interesting historical precedent can be found in the Wilson government of the late 1960s. Between spring and summer 1969, there was intense speculation about whether Harold Wilson could realistically lead the party into the next election. The Labour prime minister's attempts to introduce new trade union legislation had proved deeply divisive. There was an atmosphere of revolt in the party not dissimilar to the situation of the Labour Party today, with Callaghan circling as a dangerous pretender. Wilson, like Brown, was accused of betraying the core Labour values.
In August 1969, Wilson's personal rating fell to 26 per cent, about as bad as it got before the days of internet polling. But, somehow, he recovered. Like now, the public mood was extremely volatile. It is generally thought that both careful handling of the Northern Ireland situation and the gradual recovery of the economy following the 1967 devaluation contributed to a rise in Wilson's popularity. By October 1969 his personal rating hit 43 per cent, ahead of his rival Edward Heath.
But I wouldn't recommend that Gordon gets too excited by this - Wilson lost the election in 1970 after all.

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