Wednesday, 6 May 2009

In defence of Gordon Brown

In today’s Telegraph, Simon Heffer expresses the opinion that Gordon Brown is unfit to be Prime Minister because of his personal character flaws. He writes “It is not just that he seems incapable of accepting a challenge to his way of thinking; it is that he seems to have a fear of having to do so, a fear not just of departing from the script and having to think outside his briefing notes, but a fear also of what he might find if he did.”

I am sure that Mr Heffer has more expertise in analysing the psyche of politicians than I have, and there may well be something in what he says, but I find it hard to believe that the Prime Minister has reached the position he holds without some real personal strengths, and I suspect that he is probably as capable of accepting challenges to his way of thinking of most leading politicians in this country - or indeed, most of the people of this country.

Mr Heffer is not alone in commenting on Gordon Brown’s character. Much has been said about the mobile phone throwing incident. But I find myself saying “So what? Most people lose their temper once in a while. Some of them might make excellent Prime Ministers. The problem with Gordon Brown isn’t his temper, it’s his dreadfuly policies.” I agree that character is important - indeed, I probably believe that more strongly than most people in this country, but I find it hard to believe that it is the real problem with our current Prime Minister.

However, Mr Heffer’s comments are as nothing, compared to David Cameron’s performance at prime minister’s question time when he referred to Hazel Blear’s “YouTube if you want to” comment at the weekend, and asked “How much more mocking can you get than that? Who on earth do you think she is referring to. Don't you realise your government simply cannot go on like this? Why is she still in the cabinet?

How utterly, utterly, trivial.

When Gordon Brown replied “I've listened to your six questions and not one of them has been about policy,” it was difficult not to admit that he was onto something.

The fact of the matter is that politics seems to have degenerated into a childish game, and it is all about silly point scoring.

The problem with Gordon Brown isn’t that he sometimes loses his temper, or that he has severe and unusual character flaws, or that members of the government may disagree with him - it is that his government has completely misguided policies, is making completely misguided laws, and is throwing our money at completely misguided projects.

My guess is that we are not going to hear anything from Mr Cameron about the £58 million that the government is about to throw at social services, just as we have not heard anything from him about the proposal to reduce the national speed limit to 50 mph, or the government’s car scrappage scheme. One suspects that he considers these things to be too trivial to bother with.


patently said...

And when Dave or Nick Clegg ask about policy, do they get an answer? No, they get an untruthful and personal jibe about how much better the Government's policy is than "do nothing" Tories, and so on. So yes, it is trivial to focus on personality politics, and we all wish it would stop, but Gordon is the last person who can object.

I'd agree that he must have strong personal qualities in order to have become PM. The worry is what those qualities are. So often, the evidence points to it being the ability to suppress other contenders. If that is so, Heffer would be right.

Young Mr. Brown said...

Quite so, Mr P, quite so.

Or, to put it another way, when GB said “I've listened to your six questions and not one of them has been about policy,” that was just part of the childish game - and sometimes one of the best ways to score points in this childish game is to manage to sound like an adult and make the other players look childish.

The whole question of the nature of the personal qualities needed to become PM (or even POTUS)is an interesting one. As you say, the ability to suppress other contenders must be quite useful. I guess that means that there cannot be many national leaders who are true gentlemen (or ladies), though one would like to hope that there were some.

Then there is the ability to appeal to voters, and I do wonder if sheer charisma and ability to sell oneself count for far too much.

And only after that do other qualities and skills start coming in.

patently said...

Douglas Adams opined that anyone with the skills necessary to become the leader of a nation (or the like) was, ipso facto, the last person that you would ever want to have as the leader of a nation.

Sometimes I worry that he may have been as perceptive in that comment as he was in so many other respects.