I didn’t ever consider this to be a political blog… but then I saw the complete list of 1200-odd UK political blogs as compiled by Iain Dale‘s readers, and it turns out I’m on it. So it’s time for a little bit of politics.
Gordon Brown is playing a very dangerous game. Even if you accept – and few do – that the timing of his surprise day-trip to Basra (complete with home-for-Christmas announcement) was merely part of ‘the normal process of government’, it was always going to be seen by a cynical electorate as a cynical party-political ploy. There is no truth, there is only perception.
It’s not as if he doesn’t have a track record for sleight-of-hand: you only have to think back to his final budget, and a headline-grabbing cut in basic-rate income tax distracting attention from the phasing-out of the 10p tax band. We seem to have accepted that it’s acceptable for nasty things to be omitted from the Budget speech, and buried in the accompanying flood of press releases.
I’m afraid this just isn’t what I expected when he talked of ‘a new type of politics‘. I can’t believe it was pure coincidence: today was either naive or cynical, one of the two. If the intention was to present him as the global statesman in Basra, whilst the Tories were left bleating in Blackpool about party politics, I believe it was one huge miscalculation.
No matter how good Brown’s poll ratings, he is a politician. And politicians don’t have enough credibility to get away with a stunt like that. With big leadership problems in both the blue and yellow camps, Gordon’s biggest enemy at any general election may turn out to be sheer apathy. Or to put it another way, the electorate itself. A proper engagement strategy needs to be in the works.
PS: I know for a fact that the Labour Party machinery is preparing itself for the possibility of an election being called imminently. Brown may not yet have made the decision, but he has certainly ordered the team to be ready for the possibility/probability that he will make the decision.