As a contemporary British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was always a bit of a misfit. The dour Scot always looked a little awkward in the place of his immaculately presented and well-spoken predecessors in Tony Blair, John Major and Margaret Thatcher.
Can changing the leader somehow make a government legitimate when it has been so comprehensively beaten at the polls? Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown may have said, “The people have spoken, we just don’t know what they’ve said,” but in handing the Conservatives more seats than Labour, the only discernable message from British voters seems to be that the government’s time is up.
Brown’s surprise announcement that he will resign by September is a win-at-all-costs strategy. He’s willing to sacrifice himself to keep the Tories out of office. What’s unfolding now in Britain is an increasingly unseemly bidding war for power. The end result, if Labour manages to form a government, will be Britain having a Prime Minister it didn’t vote for.
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Update: As the Times Online reported earlier this morning, Gordon Brown has since decided to resign as leader of the Labour party. Here is the full text version of his resignation speech
What if you threw an election and nobody won?
What if everybody lost?
That is exactly what’s happened in Britain where the only absolute winners from last Thursday’s election are the UK Greens who won their first seat in Parliament.
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If you weren’t aware it’s big day in the UK today. It is general election day, and will see eith Gordon Brown ousted as Prime Minister to be replaced by the first Conservative Prime Minister in 13 years, or see Labour given an unprecedented fourth term in Government.
London’s two big tabloids have backed different parties.
The Sun, a newspaper who backed Tony Blair 13 years ago, is now firmly behind Conservative David Cameron, the man who has painted himself as Blair’s natural successor.
Meanwhile the Daily Mirror has continued their support for the Labour Party, making Cameron’s privileged upbringing the focus of the attack. They make it more explicit in an alternate front page you can see below the fold, which reminds readers he was a member of Oxford’s famous Bullingdon Club (along with London Mayor Boris Johnson) that would go around trashing pubs and writing cheques for the damage.
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Whilst the Logies and Rosemount Australian Fashion Week have kept Australian fashion commentators busy, the looks currently being critiqued in Britain are not on the red carpet or the catwalk but on the campaign trail.
The British media billed it as a showdown between Sarah Brown, wife of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Samantha Cameron, wife of Conservatives’ Leader David Cameron, but it became a three-horse race as the rise and rise of the Liberal Democrats meant their leader’s wife, Miriam González Durántez, suddenly found herself the subject of intense scrutiny. The three women all spoke to UK Grazia in this week’s issue which has hit news stands just before the poll.
As Gordon Brown faces renewed pressure after describing a Labour voter as a “bigoted woman” and one of his own candidates labelling him “the worst Prime Minister we have had in this country”, Sarah Brown has become increasingly important to her husband’s chances of reelection.
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Gordon Brown made not one, but two public gaffes in his exchange with Gillian Duffy. The first was to be caught describing the pensioner as a bigot in the first place. A politician as experienced as Gordon Brown should know better than to forget that he was wired.
Brown’s second gaffe was to spend 40 minutes apologising to the pensioner after his words were played back to him during a radio interview. No doubt his media minders regarded this as a necessary piece of damage control, a last-ditch effort to contain an already disastrous situation. That might have been the intent, but the apology just left him looking meal-mouthed, amateurish and weak.
The better option — and the thing that a true politician would have done — would have been to own up to his words and defend his beliefs.
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“It is,” P.G. Wodehouse once wrote, “never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.”
It was impossible not to think of that sentence this week as I watched Gordon Brown confronting a discontented voter in the Northern English town of Rochdale and then being caught on mic unloading on his aides.
Brown, of course, is struggling, third in the polls, personally unpopular and with the millstone around his neck of a massive budget deficit and a national debt it will take decades to repay.
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The British Prime Minister’s description of a voter he had just met as a “bigot” when he thought the microphone was off has been described by London’s Daily Telegraph as “the most damaging off-mike remark in modern politics”. There is talk that it may have destroyed any chance he had at re-election.
It’s a disaster because it confirms some of the voters’ worst suspicions about Brown’s character: that his true personality is dour and cranky, that deep down he probably just doesn’t like people. Brown was forced to visit the woman - a Labour supporter - at her home to apologise. But it a catastrophic turn in a general election campaign in which Labour is already sliding in the polls.
The timing makes it all the more damaging, but how does it rate among the long list of political gaffes when people thought the mikes were off? Here’s Brown’s - watch him squirm as the tape is played back - along with nine more in no particular order. Let us know what you think in the comments - and add your suggestions.
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Politics here has become quite addicted to managing our lives for us. Fat taxes, internet filters, incentives to have babies, disincentives to drink too much, bonuses for being green, you name it, a politician has promised it, and we’ve come to expect it.
But in the UK yesterday Conservative leader David Cameron pulled the trigger on a completely counter strategy, promising to not only leave Britons alone to run their own lives, but basically telling them to get off their sofas and start administering things themselves.
“Sack your MP, chose your own school, veto council tax rises, vote for your police commissioner, save the local post office - so many things to do.” Goodness, that sounds tiring.
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More than eighty years separate the publication of Evelyn Waugh’s first novel and the Tory campaign for government in the British election, but the two are oddly connected.
The narrative spring that sets ‘Decline and Fall’ in motion is the expulsion from Oxford of its hapless hero, Paul Pennyfeather; and the reason he’s expelled is an act of bullying by the members of something called the Bollinger Club.
They “debag” him (pull down his trousers and pants) and force him to run around the quadrangle. He’s caught, ‘sent down’ as they say at Oxford, and left with no choice but to take a low paying job teaching at a seedy prep school, where his humilations grow steadily worse.
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