Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tony and Gordon

One reason I like the British is that, at the same time, dispense with all the "nice" crap but still somehow manage to be more civil. This takedown of Gordon Brown is pretty brutal--I can't imagine any American reporter doing a profile like this of any American politician, even a reviled one like George Bush.
Lacking populist instincts ought not to be considered a failing in a prime minister, even in the age of television, but trying for the common touch when you don't have it is an unpardonable folly. Brown's recent charm offensive, culminating in an attempt to smile himself into the people's affections via YouTube--grinning like a village idiot in love while discussing MPs' second-home allowances--has made even his most loyal supporters cringe. You cannot buy the love of an electorate. [...]

In fairness to Brown, New Labour was looking pretty dog-eared when he took it over from Tony Blair. Iraq was Blair's and God's baby, though Brown had backed it. Ditto long-standing controversial legislation regarding the detention of terrorism suspects. And, for years, there had been questions about who was covertly donating how much to New Labour. Blair was seen to have cozied up to Big Business, and one Big Businessman after another had popped up at the wrong time ever since New Labour was elected. When Blair stepped down, New Labour was an unweeded garden that had grown to seed. This Brown inherited. It remained to be seen how much of a gardener he was.

The answer: No sort of gardener at all. He did not know what to tear up and what to plant. He had no instinct for the seasons, talking of calling an early election and then running scared. Away from the dusty ledgers of the economy, he lacked authority and decision. Instead of the compassionate society he had promised, he raised the lowest rate at which the poor paid tax; instead of cleaning up the murky anti-terrorism legislation cobbled together after September 11, as was expected, he backed extending the period for which suspects could be detained; his decision to draw attention from the Tory Party conference by dropping in on British troops in Iraq was electioneering in the worst of taste. [...]

Mr. Bean's best-known misadventure has him with his head stuck up the unsavory end of a Christmas turkey. It is hard now to see Gordon Brown any other way. He has recently survived desperately bad local and European election results, a number of murmuring challenges to his premiership, and the scandal of MPs' expenses. But few expect him to win a general election. In a last bid to court popularity, he has packed himself around with celebrities from the world of reality television, inviting the judges of "Britain's Got Talent" and the host of "Strictly Come Dancing" to dinner. He is, as was Blair before him, a deeply uncultured man. It is regrettable that he should see salvation in making a virtue of that. At least when he was dismal, he seemed serious. His dismalness, he appears to think, is his only flaw. In this, he is tragically mistaken. His dismalness is his greatest virtue. His flaw is to suppose he can, and should, pass himself off as something lighter, someone more like Tony. Thus, Tony goes on exacting his terrible revenge.
I suppose I should recommend the film The Deal as well as The Unfulfilled Prime Minister to anyone who is interested in Blair, Brown, and the relationship between the two. I rather liked the second, written in 2006, which predicted that Brown would have a difficult time selling himself and his proposals to the country when he took over. It's turned out to be quite an understatement.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.