Why Mark Penn is Gordon’s worst nightmare

April 13, 2008 at 9:41 am | Posted in British Politics, New Labour | 1 Comment
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Ever wonder why I spend nearly as much time blogging about U.S. politics as I do British politics? Well, for one, that ocean between us isn’t as big as you’d think. In fact, it’s not nearly big enough. From The Guardian:

Gordon Brown’s close political advisers have been in informal talks with the controversial American pollster Mark Penn, seeking advice to improve Labour’s falling poll ratings.

While there appears to be no move to appoint the global chief executive of the public relations and lobbying company Burson-Marsteller to the Downing Street team, the talks seem to confirm feelings in the Brown camp that new ideas are needed about how to promote the prime minister.

Despite pimping policies that make me want to wretch and enduing what seems like a terminal decline, I’d still rather see Gordon Brown as our Prime Minister than that insincere opportunist on the opposite bench, and although I think Brown’s problems stem far more from a lack of good policy than a lack of good PR, anything that improves the image of his government should be embraced.

Which is why Mark Penn should not be allowed within 10 miles of Gordon Brown. Why not? Let’s make a little list:

  1. Mark Penn is not a progressive. As chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, Penn leads a pro-corportate, pro-Republican, pro-union-busting enterprise that willfully stomps all over ‘the little guy’ on behalf of big business.
  2. Mark Penn is not moral. As chief strategist for Hillary 08 (up until his ‘resignation’ – see #3), Penn has overseen a campaign that has deliberately slipped smears about Barack Obama into the mainstream media, be they about his race or his patriotism or his past. He’s even done it in person, live on national TV.
  3. Mark Penn is not ethical. Penn recently had to ‘resign’ from the Clinton campaign after being caught lobbying on behalf of the Columbian government for a trade deal that Clinton herself publicly opposes. I say ‘resign’ because whilst his official role in the campaign has gone, he remains a key adviser.
  4. Mark Penn is not competent. As the chief strategist for the Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Penn drove one of the highest-profile politicians in the country from a position of unassailable strength to one that’s now on the brink of collapse. He achieved all this through arrogance, miscalculations and by not understanding the mood of the American people. In political circles, Penn has become a punchline for how not to run a campaign.

If there’s one thing Labour doesn’t need right now, it’s having yet another simpering, say-anything corporatist as a key advisor, and one who’s not even particularly good at his job.

Gordon can do better. For his own sake, he must do better.


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  1. […] Gordon might hire this obsequious loser high-achieving pollster, and I recall being somewhat, errm, sceptical. Still, you shouldn’t take my biased word for it, and so in the interests of thoroughness, I […]

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