It’s a funny old thing, the Labour party. For ten years it tolerated Tony Blair, hoping that if it put up with him long enough, it would get the leader it really wanted. Naturally, it also assumed that this would entail having the best bits of Mr Blair (winning) without the war-mongering, populist, slippery, free-market parts. Go Gordon!
Well we know what happened next. Mr Brown enjoyed the shortest honeymoon since Ian McEwan’s uptight couple failed to get it together at Chesil Beach. A slew of bad luck and bad management combined to change his image from proud Atlas, on whose shoulders the British economy could rest secure, to Mr Bean, wrecking everything he touches.
One eminent New Labourite describes a conversation this week in a shoe-repair bar in which the man at the lathe reeled off sundry complaints about the state of the nation above the din and concluded, ‘What do you expect? It’s Brownland innit?’
Brownland has reached that state of generalised disaffection where everything that goes wrong, from the impact of oil price rises to floundering banks and street stabbings falls indiscriminately on the man in Number 10.
Take the fuss over the PM’s ‘cold calls’ to members of the public, widely mocked as a counsel of pleading despair. I had one of those ghostly memories that Mr Blair was not above a bit of chat with Acacia Avenue when he was in the top job and cold-called two of his former aides to check. One said that his old boss had refrained from doing so because it was gimmicky. There’s hindsight for you. The other replied that he had indeed made occasional discreet personal calls in reply to letters which he had read and which touched him.
Both agreed that the real error was in the timing and place of it becoming public: in PRWeek, of all places.