Peter Hoskin

The context defeats Brown

The context defeats Brown
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So, mending our broken politics has been shoved to the forefront of the election campaign - at least for the time being. Brown has just given a speech on the issue, which - if you divorce it from all context - was actually fairly effective. Sure, things like reducing the voting age to 16, or a referendum on the alternative voting system, may not be your - or many people's - cup of chai. But there were several proposals which, taken in isolation, will probably be as popular as they are sensible: banning MPs from working for lobbying comapanies, for instance. Or giving the voters the ability to recall MPs who are guilty of gross financial misconduct.

But Brown's problem is that his offer isn't divorced from all context. For starters, there's the fact that much of what Brown said has already been said by his opponents. I mean, allowing the public to petition Parliament to hold a debate on an issue - that just sounds like a watered-down version of Tory proposals from February. And the same might even be said of Brown's recall plans - which seem to be looser than the Tory alternative, announced earlier today. It's true: Brown has lagged behind his opponents at almost every juncture since the Telegraph got its hand on those expense receipts last year.

While, to some extent, we ought to welcome any drive to reform Parliament, there's still another layer of context which undermines Brown: the fact that Labour have had 13 years in power to deal with all this before now. There are few other policy areas where change, rather than continuity, features so heavily and so naturally in the public's thoughts. And, try as he might, Brown will always struggle to overcome this.