Keynesian Spirits

Inspirational Brown, Anywhere?

The leaders’ debates are now done and dusted with. A large percentage of the electorate is still not certain who to vote for, but in all likelihood, the Tories will come in first, LibDems second and Labour third. This would be a devastating result for the party as even under the leadership of Michael Foot in 1983 (who was charasmatic but in possession of the longest suicide note in history), when many intellectuals from the party left to form the SDP, Labour managed a rather comfortable second.

What I found most annoying about Labour’s campaign and Brown’s performance in the debates was the near-complete negativity. Before the campaign started, the party seemed to have chosen to project a more positive message. The theme of the Tories ruining recovery would run through the campaign but would be linked to the idea of creating a more equal, fairer future. However, in the debates, it was Clegg, not Brown, who concentrated on these issues.

Here’s a Clegg soundbite:

“Don’t listen to the old parties: we really can change Britain next week. I can’t change Britain overnight but I can promise to work tirelessly. I believe all this can happen: this is your election, this is your country, when you go to vote next week choose the Britain you want. Don’t let them tell you I cannot happen. It can.”

It’s an upbeat, stirring, honest, Obama-esque statement. Telling people that the country can be changed, it can be run better and that the voters have the power to choose their nation’s course but also accepting that while no stone will be left unturned to realise the people’s wishes, everything can’t change overnight.

On the other hand, Brown was much more technocratic; all too often he offered policy detail, not inspiration. Couldn’t the geniuses around him tell him of the need to connect with voters emotionally…that Brown should use simple, understandable language, not the gobbledygook we are used to hearing from economists and financial experts.

Here’s one comment during the debate after the other leaders had talked about their anger at the bankers for their irresponsible behaviour.This is coming from a man who clearly had been too cosy with the bankers but did take tough, pragmatic decisions to bring us back from the brink of economic collapse and has played a central role in moving the international consensus towards more taxation on financial sector.

“I have never been so angry as when I talked to the chairman of a bank who told me the night before his bank collapsed that all he had was a cash flow problem. I knew it was a structural failing that was absolutely fundamental and it needed to be recapitalised immediately”

Wouldn’t it have been more powerful and effective if Brown has spoken straight from the heart, building on his values he so often talks about, and said something similar to what he stated in a church in South London.

You know the great story in Micah in the Gospel. And you know it talks about justice rolling down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. But before these words in that verse it says: ‘Have done with people who are just presenting images. Have done with people who are just talking, or singing songs that don’t mean anything. Have done with the irrelevancies. Get to the centre point. Let justice roll like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.’

So let us work together for a common purpose. Let us work together for a better community. Let us work together for a just society. Let us work for what we really believe in, and that is that when we help each other, we help the whole of our society. When our community grows, our country grows. When we work together, there is nothing we cannot achieve.”

Now this is what, for all his weaknesses, the real Brown is all about and this Brown is the one that all Labour supporters had been hoping would turn up during this election campaign. It was not to be so, unfortunately.


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  1. * Mathieu says:

    Only one out of the last four polls has suggested Labour would be in third place in terms of the national popular vote.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 2 months ago
    • * zainchaudhry says:


      You’re right about the most recent bunch of polls but on Sunday the Angus Reid (Sunday Express), BPIX (Mail) and YouGov (Sunday Times) all gave the LibDems a lead over Labour.

      Of course, nothing is fixed in stone and Labour could do better than expected but they are in a very precarious situation. Nevertheless, my choice of words was a bit too firm and Labour and LibDems are still close enough not to allow us the sort of confident predictions I indulged in above…

      | Reply Posted 8 years, 2 months ago
  2. * zainchaudhry says:

    Here’s GB out of his hiding place…

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 2 months ago

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