Don’t mention the relaunch! That will be the motto today as Gordon Brown embarks on his, ahem, new year initiative kicking off with a big speech on health . Cameron is ahead of him: he made his health speech last week. Also Brown is off to India and China later this month (or so they say; Brits are the last to be told about their PM’s plans), where Cameron and Osborne made their visit last month.
Anyway, here are a few thoughts on Brown’s 8.10am Today interview.
1) Health Personalisation of NHS service, he said, will provide the “doctor you want, time you want, hospital you want”. More than 25 years after Thatcher said almost exactly the same (video clip here), the idea is still a dream for most Brits.
2) The agenda He almost jumped down the microphone to announce to the nation the “big choices we may this year” – apparently transport, energy security, housing, “education to 18”. He’s long understood that the party that sets the framework wins the arguments. This is what he wants to make the issues – but I suspect fate may have other ideas. As Nick Robinson later put it, all this is “not a natural recipe for political recovery”.
3) Northern Wreck Can we detect a little history rewriting re Northern Rock? “People saw that was happening in Germany and America and were worried”. Hardly. Only Britain turned the drama of the credit crunch into the crisis of a run on the banks. Nobody saw this happening in any other country in the world. And other countries looked on at this pantomime with incredulity.
4) Whose Money? He says “government assets are secured” in Northern Rock. Can someone please take him aside and quietly explain that the government doesn’t have any assets. This is taxpayers’ money which he’s gambled on this disaster of a bank – and some £60bn of it at that. And no, he can’t promise its safe return. Had he done the Lloyds deal when he had the chance, none of this cash would be at risk.
5) Home losses Brown estimates 2m people may lose their homes in America. I wonder, with 1.4m Brits renegotiating their mortgages this year, how many of these he estimates will lose their homes here?
One final point, that I made in my News of the World column yesterday (and Nick also mentioned after the interview). Brown is using the Hillary Clinton strategy – positioning himself as the experienced candidate in an uncertain world of spluttering economic growth, war on terror etc. Brown and Hillary both insist they are the change candidate. But as we saw in Iowa, this cuts no ice with Americans. They are in the mood to take a risk. A mood which may make its way over the Atlantic. Hillary's problem is a desire for Americans, to break the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton presidential cycle. And maybe Britain, too, wants to break with the Blair-Brown era. If so, he’s sunk.