Gordon Brown’s speech yesterday at the Labour party conference has unsurprisingly got the media speculating over his impending take-over of the party, not least because of Cherie Blair’s terrible attempt at sabotage.
The party faithful have unsurprisingly been favourable. Although some are not happy he avoided Iraq, privatisation or nukes. And if you are really interested you can also look at the rapidly building Brown Manifesto too.
It is near certain Brown will be the Prime Minister by next year. (I do not have a problem with this). Almost immediately his eyes will be on the General Election in 2009/10 because, given he has waited a decade for the top prize, he will want it for longer.
It doesn’t really matter, except to those are obsessive about these things, how is speech went or what it contained. Brown had to play it a bit forceful yet conservative; that is his usual style. Even his manifesto is largely irrelevant for this remaining term.
The real problem for Brown will be if the electorate view that nothing changed with him in charge. They are screaming for change from Tony Blair and a Labour clone will quickly be dumped for David Cameron. He should know this so he has to be radical. Or to put it more crudely he will have to find his balls.
So what should be focus on then? These are my suggestions.
Foreign Policy. Following on from Cameron he will probably declare independence from US interests too. Too bad Cameron stole his thunder but Gordon Brown cannot ignore this. In practice this may mean reducing troops from Iraq and calling for a set timeline of withdrawal, while committing more troops to stabilise Afghanistan.
Either way Brown cannot afford to have the same FP as Blair. My feeling is he is not straying too far from the party line in order not to rock the boat. But once in charge he will need to make drastic announcements to give the impression he is not a Blair clone.
Britishness. He haphazardly started down this route in January. The problem is that while Brown knows he needs to take the ‘Britishness’ debate to the left, he seems to have said little on how to do this. But a proper focus on this debate will signal he is thinking more about home-grown issues rather than bungling up in FP as Tony Blair was constantly.
I will write more on this in due course but I have previously stated (a bit rubbishly) on why I see the need for Britishness.
Connecting with people. Not really a policy as such but the one thing Brown has to do in order to win 2009. How will he do this? Probably not with fatuous initiatives like ‘The Big Conversation‘.
More likely with opening up Labour blogging and encouraging all MPs to communicate directly with constituents this way. On this, Antony Mayfield makes a good point:
Labour is a party that won and held power by mastering mainstream media, and as Mr Dale puts it “Blogs are a spin doctor’s worst nightmare come true”. That’s bad news for the current ruling elite.
Labour in the nineties drew on inspiration and media “management” methods of American political spin doctors. Now they have stopped learning it seems, for now awareness of and positive engagement with bloggers in the US is a must for political campaigners.
Will it happen? Quite possibly but Brown has to be fast and more radical than he has ever been before. He may also like to take his cue from others.
In France, SÃ©golÃ¨ne Royal, who is likely to win the French Socialist party nomination to stand for the presidency next year, has been running a website and blog that has generated lots of interest and new support.
Ms Royal puts essays on topics such as unemployment or immigration on her site and invites readers to post responses. She claims that she will then incorporate the best ideas into her platform for the presidency. It may be a gimmick, but it has helped her appear modern and in touch with the people – qualities in short supply in French politics.
You could almost say Gordon Brown’s fortunes will depend more on his attitude to blogging than the speech he gave yesterday.
I don’t say this because I love this medium but because it should form as part of a broader strategy to re-connect with a voter base that has been thoroughly turned off by New Labour’s willingness to live by spin and tabloid headlines.
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