Monday, 23 July 2007

Browned Off

I'm not entirely certain that Gordon Brown has fully got to grips with his new job yet. Ever since he ousted his predecessor from Downing St., the Government he ostensibly leads has lurched from one crisis to another - terrorist attacks, floods and a major diplomatic spat with Russia spring to mind.

Naturally, each new catastrophe demands yet another media response from the Prime Minister, but, to my ears, he's starting to sound just a little repetitive. On the 30th June 2007, in a statement on the failed terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow, he said, "The first duty of the government is the security and safety of all the British people."

On the Russian diplomatic crisis, Mr Brown said, on the 16th July 2007, "When a murder is committed on British soil, action has to be taken," while the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, said, "The UK has a wider duty to ensure the safety of the large Russian community living in the UK."

And, in his first regular press briefing at Downing St. yesterday (23rd July 2007), Mr Brown said, "Our first priority is the safety and protection of our citizens," while addressing the current flood crisis in England.

Yes, thank you, Mr Brown, we've got the picture. You're a new political broom, determined sweep clean the Government's tarnished reputation and convey the appearance of being in touch with the needs of the electorate, in the hope of keeping your job at the next election. That's perfectly reasonable behaviour for a politician, but don't you think it might be time to have a quiet word with your script writer? You're starting to sound a bit like a parrot, and it might be worthwhile investing in a few more well-turned phrases of interested, protective concern.

While you're ordering a new batch of ready-made reassurances, you might like to remind your script writer that you're no longer Chancellor. In almost every recent TV appearance you have resorted to quoting budgets, percentage increases in spending and similar swathes of figures. That might have stood you in good stead as Chancellor, who is largely ignored by everyone other than bankers and captains of industry, but it won't wash as Prime Minister. For one thing, many of the younger members of the general public are products of a failing, Labour sponsored, education system and won't have a clue what you're talking about. For another, those of us who DO know what you're saying don't find them convincing - there are lies, damn lies and statistics, as the saying goes.

It might also be a good idea to curb the all-too-understandable desire to pass off persistent problems as a result of your predecessors' actions. Yes, I know, Tony Blair made a bit of hash of things, and now you've got to deal with that. I also know that you were a senior member of Mr Blair's Government for a very long time, and suggestions that you didn't know what was going on are just not viable.

Look at it this way; if, with your very obvious desire to become PM, you really didn't keep tabs on what was happening, you're obviously incompetent and unfit to hold your current office. If you DID know, and you now choose to deny that knowledge, you're no more honest than was your predecessor, and your much-vaunted enthusiasm for honesty and accountability in Government is busted from the outset.

But that's not the full extent of your buck-passing, is it? Blaming Mr Blair for your problems might be understandable, if somewhat disingenuous, but do you really think you can get away with blaming our ancestors? Asked if everything that could have been done to avoid the current flood chaos had, in fact, been done, Mr Brown praised the emergency services and then had the nerve to add, "It's pretty clear that some of the 19th Century structures we're dealing with - infrastructure and where they were sited - that is something we're going to have to review." He said there were many areas where they would have to "look for the future" at what had to be done - including where infrastructure was located, its drainage and flood defences.

Look to the future? By his own admission, successive Governments, in one of which he has played a major part for a long time, have had over 150 years to "review" this situation. Talk about closing the stable door after the horse has bolted!

No, Mr Brown, your best hope of fooling folks into going along with your new regime until, at least, after the next election, is to steer well clear of the "it's not my fault, I'm trying to fix it" approach; it's not convincing and just makes you look like a fraud.

Billy Seggars.

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