Monday, 24 September 2007

Gordon Brown: Mind Games and General Elections

Just when the parties felt safe to stand down the troops and prepare for another winter at Westminster, Gordon Brown has seen fit to float the prospect of an autumn general election. It certainly has stirred up the media and for Sunday it was the main story on the BBC until news of the outbreak of Blue Tongue Disease on a Suffolk farm. Grabbing headlines is of course one of the reasons for the new speculation. The Labour Conference starts this week and Labour is naturally focusing the attention of everybody on that. All this spin about Brown being swayed by advice in his own party is nonsense: the Prime Minister is a control freak to the ‘n’th degree and it will be he that decides the timing of any general election; neither the unions nor other ministers and certainly not the Parliamentary Labour Party will have much in the way of input in Brown’s calculations.

I believe however there is a deeper purpose to Brown’s referral to the possibility of early elections and that is the effect is it hoped to have on the opposition parties. This cat-and-mouse of "will he, won't he" call a general election reminds me of the techniques employed by police negotiators in a siege situation: step up the drama to near crisis peak, relax it and then create another drama. Continue the cycle until the besieged are exhausted, then break down the door. Gordon Brown is attempting to stress his political opponents by using exactly the same mind game. He hopes by the time an election is really called, their activists will be in no shape to fight one. Brown has calculated that most of the British public are apathetic enough to be unaffected by this process.

Last night I listened to The Westminster Hour, read Nick Robinson's blog on the BBC site and heard Brown being interviewed this morning on the Today Programme. The game is still being played. To be frank, it has to be with collusion of the media because nobody raise the obvious point: neither Labour nor the Tories can afford to go to the country at this time. As of July 2007, Labour was in debt to the sum of £27million and the Conservatives owed £18million. The Liberal Democrats were looking pretty good in comparison, owing only £300,000. The recent scandals about payments for peerages and off-book "loans" means that New Labour and the Conservatives cannot employ the usual fund-raising routes to the wealthy elites, at least in the near future.

What would I do in Brown's position? I would go for an early election. The opposition are weak and it would head off the risk of disunity in the Labour movement - especially a factor in the unions at this time. Can New Labour afford to hold an election right now?

Not a chance.

Illustration credit: Gordon Brown after Newton by William Blake. Dave Brown


CarolinaDreamz said...

Oh, Martin. I wish I was intelligent enough, in this subject matter to leave a brilliant comment here.

I will return to your UK politics 101 email, tomorrow and try to commit more to memory.

Could you help me make memory flash cards? (I'm really serious! IF I can learn this, I can teach it to my children and they need to know this as much as I do..)

I feel this confused when I read JK Rowling, too, by the way. Please don't tell my children that, though. I must finish the first book, with them, out-loud, tomorrow, too. I finally broke down to read it with them. I thought it might help me understand some of their Potter vocabulary better... they have read it more times than I probably even know. (and correct my constant mis-pronunciations, too..) Our first book (see I haven't even mastered the name yet! *giggle*) looks vintage already with all the pages no longer connected to the binding!

I wish all of our books got that much use.

Yvette said...

Keep up the good work.