Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger?

October 13, 2008 at 2:51 pm | Posted in British Politics, Gordon Brown, New Labour | Leave a comment

Good news! According to Gordon Brown, what doesn’t kill us will only make us stronger!

Aside from sounding like cross between a Kanye West song and a Coronation Street platitude, this phrase could easily be applied to Brown’s own political fortunes at the moment. I won’t reheat the same observations others have made about the PM’s temporary resuscitation, but it’s comforting that his response to the banking armageddon has been hailed by people like the recent Nobel winner Paul Krugman. Given his habit of repeating failure for the past 12 months, it’s nice (and a little strange) to see Downing Street not screwing something up.

It’s also worth remembering how self-indulgent all that intra-party squabbling was just a few short weeks ago. As I warned at the time, if the knife-wielding anti-Brown plotters had had their way, the nation’s governing party would’ve been effectively leaderless at the exact time the country needed strong leadership. Whatever your thoughts on the Prime Minister (the record will show that I’m not a fan), I think most of us would agree that the past month wouldn’t have made the best time to remove him.

But looking into the future, it’s difficult to see how this could be anything more than a stay of execution. The blame game has barely begun, and for all the superficiality Cameron has displayed on economic matters, even he will could land a few punches on the Prime Minister for not seeing the crisis coming. On top of this, the public finances are in even more of a state than they were before, the prospect of choosing between tax hikes and public spending cuts (or even having to do both) seems inevitable, and almost any decision the government makes in this regard is likely to enrage the public. Anyone who’s paid attention to the ‘have your say’ segments on news programmes will have noticed the anger, particularly felt among public sector workers, when the government says there’s no money for things like pay rises, but can suddenly find £50 billion to bail out the city. Populism will become du jour, and it’s not a look that suits Brown at all.

Still, right now we’re mostly just being thankful for small mercies. Our stockbrokers seem to have restrained themselves from indulging in yet more panic selling, the FTSE has enjoyed a minor recovery and the Dow Jones has opened strongly. The end of the world’s been averted for another day, and as for whether it kills Gordon Brown or makes him stronger, well for that we’ll just have to wait & see.


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