"All things are wearisome, more than one can say." - Ecclesiastes 1:8

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Lost: two discs and one mojo

I normally eschew the business of attempting to predict the future - except when it suits me. Or to put it another way, except when I think I'm right. And I think I've been right about Gordon Brown. It's just this feeling I get about him: the Force is not with him; his Ying is all out of kilter with his Yang; his mojo definitely ain't working. Had to laugh at Matthew Parris's column on Saturday because he was saying the same sort of thing.

Anyone want to argue that it was such a bad idea to call a snap election now? But I think there's a rational explanation behind this sense that Gordy's Feng Shui's all fucked up.

One is that people are discovering what those of us from the North have understood all along: being grumpy and Scottish doesn't make you left-wing. One gets the sense that people have begun to realise that Brownism is just Blairism without the smiles.

Being grumpy and Scottish doesn't make you more competent either - and this is the core of the issue. What happens when you play the politics of personality, only to discover that the personality in question isn't a) anything like as attractive as you thought it would be and b) irrelevant anyway? No, not irrelevant - rather it has the opposite effect than the one suggested for it. Brown's been able to get away with this son o' the manse crap for quite a long time. Why it should have lasted this long is beyond me. He's a gloomy presbyterian, so he's careful with money? With his own, I dare say - but that this is not so with public money has been obvious to everyone who has being paying attention.

Gordon Brown's government has lost your money - and, if you're a child benefit claimant, lost your information - because in his desire for control he has set tasks for his government that it is simply not capable of achieving. Johann Hari was way off mark in suggesting that our Gordon's present difficulties represent a crisis for "small government conservatism". Conservative he is, what with his 'British jobs for British workers' crap and his regressive fiscal policies - but the problem is that he's trying to do too much. I dare say he's trying to do it on the cheap, but that's a secondary point - it's the scale of his ambition that's the problem because he's setting his government tasks that it is intrinsically incapable of achieving. I'm reluctant to provide a list of the things Gordon wants you to do for fear of being accused of being a 'bloggertarian'. Suffice to say that when any government talks about 'changing the culture', understand that they have a) replaced moral socialism for social moralism b) set for themselves a goal that they are necessarily incompetent to achieve.

Which brings me to the unfortunate business of Gordon slipping his discs. I'm not enough of an anorak to follow the ins and outs of this story and I may be wrong but I would have thought that even without civil service cuts, something like this would have happened anyway. Can you really centralise all this information in this way that requires thousands of people to be able to get access to it in order for them to do their jobs and simultaneously guarantee that something like this can never happen? I doubt it. How much more, then, is this government doomed to fail if it continues to assume control over decisions that should never be considered the preserve of central government in the first place?

Add to this the personality problem in relation to the Cabinet. Brown didn't control the economy for the simple reasons that Chancellors can't control the economy. But with the fiction they can, he would have taken the flak if the Blair government had experience a Black Wednesday-type senario because no-one doubted that he ran the Treasury almost completely independently of Blair. Not so with Prime Minister Brown because what is Alistair Darling but a creature of the former Chancellor? Gordon Brown is discovering that one of the problems with having no 'heavy hitters' in your Cabinet is that there's no-one around to take the hits for you.

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