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

Monday, April 21, 2008

Parties and their leaders

There's lots of stuff about Brown and why he's so crap. Having gone from a coronation applauded, for the most part, by Labour-leaning journalists, the present buckets of refuse being poured on him from a great height is almost enough to make one feel rather sorry for our Gordon. Almost, I stress - but Andrew Rawnsley had a good point, I thought:
"It is a common and very human delusion. If only I could change one thing about me, so people say to themselves, my life would be transformed. If only I could get a new wife/husband/job/breast size/head of hair/house, then everything would be wonderful.

Just as human beings fall prey to this delusion, so too do political parties. When life seems bleak and miserable, the single thing they yearn to change is their leader. This delusion was one of the main reasons why Labour MPs forced Tony Blair to leave Number 10 earlier than he wanted to go. By poetic symmetry, this delusion is now one of the main reasons why Gordon Brown is coming under so much pressure and attack from within his own ranks.

When they waved goodbye to Tony Blair, far too many Labour people were under the misapprehension that he would take most, if not all, of the government's problems and unpopularity with him.
[...]
They had forgotten their history, one lesson of which is that the party itself has never been all that popular.(Emphasis added.)
Too true - and by no means confined to the Labour party. I'm wondering if it could be counted as a general rule - that when political parties start to think that the electorate are like them, they are - to use the technical term - fucked.

We saw it with the Tories under Major, deluding themselves that what would really float the electorate's boat was someone as hardline Eurosceptic, small statist, tough on foreigners, tough on the causes of foreigners, as many of them were. They had to go through William Hague, IDS and Michael Howard before the penny dropped.

Now it's Labour's turn; they did it under Blair and now under Brown. In another Brown-related post, Peter Ryley identifies part of the problem in the way that parties target swing-voters. A fair point in the context he uses it - but what strikes me is the way in which parties, when they're going through these phases of deluding themselves that people like them so much more than their leaders, have an impressive ability to completely ignore the polling evidence.

This is Brown's problem. Not so much his apparent inability, according to his fans, to let his 'true values' shine forth. It's worse than that. Even if he managed to do this, I doubt it would help him one iota. I'm repeating myself but the problem with Gordon's groupies is that they confused being Scottish and grumpy with social democracy. Brown is culturally Labour to his finger tips - Scottish Labour at that. This is the Labour that promotes and rewards, not according to merit or need, but based on calculations that are estimates of past loyalties and perceived betrayals - almost emptied as it is of any ideology. It is the reason, in case it escaped anyone's attention, that we have what seems to me to be about the weakest Cabinet in living memory - and I'm not sure even the history books could yield a weaker one. This is the sort of Labour that Scottish voters rejected in favour of the nationalists - even though a majority of us do not favour independence. (Maybe some day an English commentator will get this, but I won't hold my breath.)

What to do? I'd doubt getting rid of Brown would do them much good - it certainly wouldn't reflect very well on a party that gave him a coronation just under a year ago. Just like getting rid of the frankly useless Wendy Alexander wouldn't reflect very well on the Scottish party having given her an, um, coronation under a year ago. You'll be detecting a pattern here.

Labour members, Labour die-hards - if you listen carefully, you can just hear them muttering about loyalty, asking who's side I'm on, the usual shit. Yours. This is why I feel bound to point this out: the problem is you, comrade, the problem is you.

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