jamie goode's wine blog: Political aside

Monday, September 22, 2008

Political aside

Couldn't help but blog on a subject that I'm loathe to broach here - politics. [The risk of offending readers is too high, but then a blog that doesn't take any risks can be a dull read.]

The BBC has just run a story here about an aside allegedly made by David Miliband at the Labour party conference, in which he seems to indicate that he deliberately toned down his speech because he's keeping his powder dry for a future leadership challenge.

Now I'm not a terribly party political person, but I've found it fascinating to watch what has happened since Tony Blair gave the leadership of the Labour party, and the job of prime minister, to Gordon Brown. It seems obvious that Brown, while a highly competent cabinet minister and intelligent person, is not really a leader. Leadership is a relatively rare quality, and only some people possess it. You can spot leaders, because people instinctively want to follow them - that's why they are called leaders.

Gordon has been coached and coached, and you can see he's trying to do all the right things, like smile, and be personable, and crack jokes. But it all looks so rehearsed and so false. If he walked into a room, people wouldn't terribly much want to be near him. Even though he's the prime minister. The poor bloke has got the top job - the one he has been longing for - and it has turned into a living nightmare because he can't carry it off.

I suspect that everyone in the Labour party of average intelligence and above knows it would be madness to approach the next election with Gordon at the helm. Yet, for now, there is this show of faux unity. Like the pursuit cycling event we all watched for the first time at the Olympics this year, timing is everything (this is the event where the two cyclists, who are racing each other, almost stop, waiting to see who will make the first move). Within the higher echelons of the party, there exist natural leaders, and foremost among these is the as-yet inexperienced Miliband. Sooner or later, it seems inevitable that he will make his move. As I said, timing is everything, and it is fascinating to watch.



At 9:40 PM, Blogger Paul Tudor said...


I think you mean "sprint cycling", not "pursuit". Pursuit cyclists go flat out for four and a half minutes from the gun. But, otherwise, this is a good anology to make about political fortunes.

If we apply complexity theory to Brown's fate, then I think we get a more detailed picture. There was certainly a tipping point when he went from being the "welcome change from Blair" to "prevaricating, indecisive un-leader". This happened in the media and the latter image is what has become the dominant narrative. I think it was to do with him mistakenly talking about an early election, the journos picking this up, and then changing his mind a day or two later. The journos resented being made to look bad, then reacted by painting him as being indecisive and unpredictable. I don't believe for a second that he is either of these things - you do not get to the position he has with these traits.
As for whether he has "leadership" presence, I am not sure whether this has been tainted by your country's experience of Blair. There is leadership and there is leadership - there is leadership that blunders into Iraq on the basis of intelligence mistakes (or perhaps deliberately hiding their tracks.) There is leadership that takes a brave stand for pollution controls. Then there is leadership at a more personal level. It sounds as if Brown's minders may be preventing this more wholesome leadership from coming to the surface. And I wonder why they have chosen this path - is it related to the early mistake I mentioned above?


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