Enoch Powell, not a nice man but an astute observer of the political scene, famously said that all political careers end in failure unless cut off early at some happy juncture. The career of Gordon Brown seems to be on a fast track towards that destination at the end of a week that has seen his government, rightly, defeated in its attempt to prevent Ghurkhas who fought for this country from settling in the UK and then got itself into a tangle over MP’s expenses, again.
The seemingly unstoppable slide towards disaster of the Brown administration is marked by some truly farcical aspects.
An epetition posted on the Downing Street by Kelvis Jonsons, a mathematician and disillusioned Labour supporter has attracted 31,000 signatures, taking it comfortably into the top spot and aides charged with maintaining Gordon Brown’s personal website have, according to Wednesday’s Daily Mail, blocked the public from adding comments because filtering out the abusive comments had become too time consuming.
The announcement of his planned reform of MP’s expenses posted on Youtube in which Brown grins inanely whilst weaving from side to side as if dodging tennis balls thrown from some point off camera and described by one leading opposition politician as ‘a music hall turn’ that became an internet sensation a couple of weeks ago has now been eclipsed by the 624,000 hits attracted by a video compilation of Brown picking his nose on the government front bench.
I have written before about the way the criticism any politician should accept as going with the territory has, in the case of a man with Brown’s particular mix of personality traits, tipped over into something that resembles playground bullying and the corrosive effect this has on the dignity of the office he holds. I still subscribe to that view, although feel it must be tempered by a recognition by Brown and his few remaining supporters that the Prime Minister has been the author of many of his own misfortunes.
He put a huge question mark over his legitimacy by fixing the leadership election to prevent a ballot of Labour Party members from taking place by ensuring he would be the only candidate; then flunked calling an election in the autumn of 2007 when he stood realistic chance of winning, admittedly with a much reduced majority.
Gordon Brown has set the tone for a government that seems to favour a ceaseless parade of initiatives, most of which sink without trace in a matter of days, to creating a consistent narrative by his own hyperactive scuttling about the international stage. In only the past week he has popped up in Pakistan, Poland and Afghanistan. He has consistently misread the public mood on every major issue, culminating this week in a shaming attempt to prevent soldiers willing to lay down their lives for this country from being able to settle here after they leave the service.
As it stumbles into its last twelve months, whatever the people who sign online petitions may think Gordon Brown will never give up the job he believes defines his entire political career until dismissed by the electorate and the Labour Party flinched at attempting to force his hand last Autumn, his career attracts comparisons with the two other great failures of post war British politics, Anthony Eden and Edward Heath.
Eden, a brilliant Foreign Secretary, was the heir apparent to Winston Churchill and was destroyed by the Suez crisis when he finally took over the reins of power; Heath entered Downing Street in 1970 on a tide of optimism, this, so the thinking of the time went, would be the man who will end the industrial strife tearing Britain apart. Things ended rather differently four years later when he went to the electorate with the plaintive question ‘who governs Britain?’, the answer came back; not you chum!
For all their ultimate failure as political leaders both Eden and Heath had proved their mettle, literally, under enemy fire, that isn’t true of Gordon Brown, quite the reverse in fact, his premiership has been dogged by repeated criticism of his perceived lack of courage, as evidenced by the election that never was.
I do not feel it is fair or appropriate to question the courage of a man who has overcome the personal misfortunes experienced by Gordon Brown, but it is time for him to show some political courage. He must recognise that his government, for all the good Labour has done since 1997, is now a mortally wounded animal in need of being put out of its misery by the electorate; it is time, in short for it and him to leave the stage with their last few shreds of dignity.