Peter Hoskin

Hunting for a vision

Hunting for a vision
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And so the Glorious Fightback begins for Gordon Brown.  Stage One is his announcement on Parliamentary reform today; but it's Stage Two, his "national plan" next week, which seems to be getting the most hype.  Indeed, an insightful article in the FT suggests that the Dear Leader's inner circle regards it as "the last throw of the dice".  And Peter Mandelson drops in words like "boldness," and phrases such as "decisive action," just for good measure.

The key point, though, comes towards the end of the article:

"Some doubt that Mr Brown’s plan will be able to demonstrate anything more than government impotence before the election. 'This is classic Gordon. He thinks of the story first, then tries to work out what the policies should be. It should be the other way round. Gordon has 1,001 small ideas, but no big idea,' said one Whitehall veteran."

Despite all that we've heard about "Gordon's vision for the country," simple fact is: it's difficult to identify the Big Idea.  The PM dabbles in reform when it suits him politically; acts like increasing the upper rate of income tax have been all about creating dividing lines rather than helping the country; and grand plans such as eco-towns and affordable housing have been more or less put back on the shelf.  If anything, recent history attests to Michael Gove's thesis that the Brown premiership is motivated simply by "hanging on to power for its own sake."  And that, I imagine, it not a popular platform with the voting public.

Given Brown's failure with the whole "vision thing" over the past few years, it's unlikely he'll be able to succeed now - when his popularity, and his standing within his own party, are at an all-time low.  And the document we'll see next week already sounds like a hotchpotch of lazy ideas and hurried concessions.  In the end, we're left with situations like David Miliband's Today interview yesterday, where ministers scramble, ludicrously, to pin the word "radical" on any policy at hand.  Coherent it ain't.