29 July 2007

Gordon Brown: reading the runes



We have had one month of Mr Brown. Given that disapproval of Blair had reached a crescendo, and in view of the insipidity of Mr "Dave" Cameron, a period of pro-Labour bounce was likely. Even some right-wing bloggers have been making hopeful noises about Brown being a change for the better.

Prospect Magazine has claimed Brown is "the first prime minister in decades — possibly in a century — who can be said to be a genuine intellectual". I think this is a tad hyperbolic. Now Arthur Balfour, the subject of my last CumpleaƱos, was someone who could genuinely be described as an intellectual premier. As far as I know, Brown just claims to have read a lot of books — on that basis, we are all intellectuals. And what about poor Winston; his 43 books don't seem to count for much in the eyes of Prospect staff.

Brown's precise position on the ideological spectrum has been a bit obscure. What can we deduce about him so far, from statements to date?

1) Re drugs: "We have doubled the numbers in treatment but need to do more, and give support for communities who want to chase out drug dealers from their communities ... There have been reports of stronger strains of cannabis on the market ..."
Possible translation: I thoroughly disapprove of people being able to do things which society agrees are bad for you.

2) Re education: "The Government will use an Educational Opportunity Bill to raise the school leaving age from 16 to 18 ... [there will be] a £265 million package to provide group activities for pupils during term and holiday periods."
Possible translation: I am committed to enforcing 'social justice' (= pseudo-egalitarianism) by ensuring everyone spends the same number of years in school, and by extending school influence to more parts of every child's life.

3) Re monetary policy: "I believe ... that the old rigid rules linking inflation and the money supply remain too simplistic for a modern economy."
Possible translation: We shall continue to expand the money supply at more than twice the rate of growth. Inflation isn't that bad anyway — it's a form of redistribution.

What about the idea, then, that Brown is less statist than Blair, or even has libertarian sympathies? No evidence for, that I know of, and plenty against. And if the above are examples of Brown's attempts to seduce "Middle Britain", as some journalists have been claiming, then Middle Britain has become even more mediocratised than I had given it credit for.

See also: Cllr. Tony Sharp

3 comments:

JohnM said...

I'm reminded of George Mikes definition of an intellectual.

Fabian Tassano said...

Thanks, had to look him up. This extract is probably the kind of thing you mean.

A Bloomsbury intellectual ...

Politically you must belong to the extreme left. You must, however, bear a few things in mind:
1. You must not care a damn about the welfare of the people in this country or abroad, because that would be 'practical politics' - and you should only be interested in the ideological side of matters.
2. Do not belong to any party, because that would be 'regimentation.' Whatever different parties achieve, it is much more interesting to criticize everyone than to belong to the herd.
3. Do not hesitate to scorn Soviet Russia as reactionary and imperialistic, the British Labour Party as a conglomeration of elderly Trade Union Blimps, the French Socialists as 'confused people,' the other Western Socialist parties as meek, bourgeois clubs, the American labour movements as being in the pay of big business; and call all republicans, communists, anarchists and nihilists 'backward, reactionary crypto-fascists.'

JohnM said...

Actually I have to confess to getting it wrong.

The thing I had in mind was the cartoon titled "Dr Hoffmeyer is absolutely brilliant" within the chapter "How Not To Be Clever". The idea being that call someone "clever" is an insult. In my senior moment I had incorrectly recalled it as "intellectual".

That usage seemed appropriate for Gordon Brown.

I shouldn't have been so lazy.