Wednesday, 24 September 2008

A toe in the Brown stuff

There are few things less appetising than the human species with its pack instincts in full flow. From playground bullying to gang rape, from poking ‘fun’ at difference to pogroms, it’s those who join in even more than those who initiate who bring out the misanthrope in me.

So I haven’t and won’t be joining the Bugger Brown Crew, barely any of who were brave enough to raise a reservation when he was crowned unopposed at Labour conference a year ago. Those who were too gutless (or was it witless? It really doesn’t make too much of a difference) to make their objections known when it meant standing out against the tide don’t merit much attention now when all they’re doing is running with the herd.

Virtually nothing that has been said against Brown has much to do with policy. Where it has – such as his failure to control the excesses of the City sharks who’ve brought down half the banking system on the heads of the rest of us – none of his opponents are offering anything different. Does anyone seriously believe that his critics in the Labour Party, still less David Cameron and the Tories, are going to put the greedy dogs of capitalism back on the leash?

Read through some of the reactions to Brown’s speech, if you can bear it. They’re full of analysis of his body language, his smile, his ‘no time for a novice’ jibe, how it went down with the party, the unions, the country, whether it made him seem more ‘human’, what we think of his wife coming in with the warm-up, whether Ruth Kelly really thought it was ‘awful’ even if she’d never said so. And so on. At least in the bad Old Labour days, the conference barnstormers tended to be about real issues. Now it’s all fought out on matters of style and image, to an agenda pre-determined and post-rated by the media. The BBC cameras, apparently, were even turned on David Miliband ready to catch that reference to a novice – an example of hardcore news manipulation if ever there was one.

Cast your mind back a year ago, when it was David Cameron under pressure and the Tories riding the undercurrents of disloyalty. It could as easily have been Cameron being hunted by the baying pack this autumn. It would have been no more edifying a spectacle – and no more meaningful in terms of actual policy.

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