Why Gordon Brown is portrayed as a ditherer

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"Gordon Brown has disappeared at moments of political crisis before..." (The Economist 5/9/9). After the release of al-Megrahi to die in Libya the PM waited 5 days before saying anything and then only to condemn the rapturous welcome he received on landing. Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill was left to take all the flak. Meanwhile more was leaking out about the discussion of the case in high level diplomacy with Libya, including Bill Rammell's assurance that the British government did not want him to die in a Scottish jail. They recognised that it would not be in the national interest, particularly in view of an oil contract. It all seems to be part of the PM's habit of dithering, exhibiting a lack of leadership at critical moments that has dogged the country since he took over in 2007.

Yet at the end of the same article, The Economist, which railed against letting this convicted terrorist go in the previous week, doesn't actually disagree that much with what he did: "Mr Brown has inherited the British-Libyan rapprochement... Even if he was happy for Mr Megrahi to be transferred... it is hard to be sure that the Conservatives would really have put principle over Libya's immense commercial and strategic value..." So what is all this campaign against the Brown government all about? It has certainly been sustained over issue after issue, such as the question of sleaze over MP's expenses. Just as under Major, all the sleaze scandals apply equally to both main parties, but the mud sticks to the government MP's and the opposition comes up smelling of roses and looking statesmanlike!

When he first took over as PM, Brown could do no wrong in the eyes of the media. Then he decided against an autumn election and was immediately labelled a ditherer, hardly fit for any kind of high office. Of course, the end of the sustained ‘growth' fuelled by government spending came to an end, and his legacy as chancellor was shown to be completely hollow, but that was not why the media changed their tune. Once he had taken the decision against an early election it was clear that his job was to see out the government's term and lose the next election, and in order to avoid any mistakes every half excuse is taken up to show the electorate, us, just how inadequate he is to govern. And there have been plenty of fiascos, such as all the ministerial resignations just before the Euro elections, showing a real loss of control within the governing party. The frequent changes of cabinet ministers, like rats leaving a sinking ship, are a definite weakness. But this is not the main reason the ruling class needs a change of government.

It is partly because democracy requires a sufficiently regular change of government to maintain its credibility while continuing to carry out the same basic policies home and abroad. In 1997 Labour's most believable promise, the one they definitely kept, was to follow the tight spending plans of the previous government, cuts and all. But at least they weren't the Tories, the hated Tories who in 18 years presided over a massive increase in unemployment (from one to 3 million until they changed the way of collecting statistics and put millions on incapacity benefit instead of the dole), the rundown of the steel and coal industries complete with the defeat of the miners' strike, cuts in health and so on. After more than a decade of Labour cuts in benefits, attacks on pensions, ‘reform' of health and education to improve ‘efficiency', ie more of the same attacks on the working class, simply not being the Tories won't win another election.

We also need to take account of the recession. With unemployment up to 2.4 million officially we are left in no doubt that worse is to come, even when the recession is technically over. A recent report suggested a cut of 10% of jobs in the NHS, when anyone working in it or using it as a patient might think it has been cut to the bone already. When bringing in all these attacks it will help the government to have an opposition that can pretend to talk in our name, not just as the electorate, but as the working class, to tell us that we should confine our resistance within the bounds of the trade unions and elections. Labour will be able to attempt that in opposition - once they have had a real electoral kicking. The Tories can't.

So what is Brown doing for the bourgeoisie? He's shoring up the banks and keeping the economy afloat with more debt, he's attacking the working class to make us pay for the recession, and last but not least he's the fall guy for the next election.

Alex 5/9/9