Friday, June 05, 2009

GORDON BROWN: The Last Hours of A Missing Leader

Yesterday, as the Works and Pensions Secretary James Purnell sent his resignation to the media first, and Downing Street next, and in the carefully crafted four page letter asked Gordon Brown to go as well, he was gambling on a rather obvious bet: That Gordon Brown will surely go soon. Mr. Purnell's intent may have been to play greater role in the incoming administration, or may be switch over to Tories at some point, as some have alleged, but he was just following his political instincts. Luck is fast running out for Gordon Brown, as several Ministers stepped down recently and the Labour Party's poll ratings have become abysmal since he took over.

It is indeed ironical how fast good things turn to bad. In the harsh light of reality, how a thorough and professional Chancellor turn into an incompetent, radar less Prime Minister. There is also a sense of tragedy in observing the flighty nature of public attention - the man was seen as one of the finest Chancellors in history who led the British economy to an unparalleled revival only a couple of months ago.

There are certain factors outside Mr. Brown's control, obviously. The global recession for one, which made his vaunted economic success look like a scam. The New Labour has indeed become old, tired and its newness forgotten, and their great achievements, like a rekindling of the NHS and the resurgence of the British public Transport system, have become things to be taken for granted. Besides, some of nasty things were handed down to him by Tony Blair, like the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, which does not seem to end.

But then, there are other things which could have been different. For example, the nature of Mr. Brown's elevation to power - following the stepping down of Tony Blair as if in a royal succession - made his authority seem dubious from day one. Mr. Brown did not face an election in the labour party, and refused to face a General Election, as if his backroom dealings with Tony Blair was a given and the whole nation must abide by how they decided to rule.

This sense of entitlement has finally come to be Mr. Brown's undoing. He seemed to have expected people to understand him - a man of substance and record - but made very little effort to understand the people in his part. He seemed to have lived, through his 1o years as a Chancellor, as a special man - something like a second among equals - and that made his transition as a top dog even more difficult. He seemed to pursue an agenda he kept in his purse for all these ten years, being completely oblivious that the world has changed and many of those things do not matter anymore.

And, he failed to communicate. His misfortunes do not come from the boyish David Cameron - who is widely seen as a lightweight and is very unlikely to be trusted to run Britain in these troubled times - but from his own fumbling, an antiquated vision and his intent to please everyone. He looked like a very confused man, regularly overturning policy decisions made after great deliberations.

He lost the game, thus. He showed a certain arrogance - that the Prime Minister's position is his - and failed to realize that it does not work that way in a democracy. His greatest opportunity - to take the people in his side by being forthright and humble - was squandered [he possibly had too many technocrats as his advisor rather than people politicians], and he seemed like a closet Stalinist preaching unity and in trying to sound mock-Churchill. In essence, he failed to lead.

It is only a matter of time before he goes, either through a Cabinet coup, or through an orderly handover or through a defeat in General Election. But, this will remain as a tragedy for Britain. Its best shot at becoming a modern powerful economy will lay wasted now, especially if the Tories take over and follow their usual, disastrous agenda of pampering the rich. Gordon Brown will pay the price of being egoistical, but so will the whole country. Indeed, it will be far better if he sees things early and decides to leave for the sake of protecting a legacy, for which he played no small part.

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