Saturday, May 31, 2008

Derek Draper (!) comes to Gordon's aid

In today's Guardian , Derek Draper (sometime new Labour spin doctor - though not a very good one and now some kind of psychotherapist - more of which later) gives his view that we are currently living through an exaggerated 'crowd' response to Gordon Brown's difficulties, where he is getting blamed in an exaggerated way for the international economic shocks (triple whammy of banking crisis, oil shock, food price hike - and none of the government's making).

Behind the relentless criticism lies the more balanced truth: That, sure, Brown has made mistakes but that the main source of his unpopularity is that people blame him for the economic downturn. He is hoping that he will receive reciprocal credit for any subsequent recovery. In the meantime something akin to mass hysteria has gripped the nation.

In other words the best antidote is for Brown to exhibit those characteristics he most possesses: being solid, steadfast and serious. Not flash, as the slogan put it - just Gordon. If he soldiers on I suspect that people will begin to realise that the current negativity is out of proportion and that he deserves a more balanced judgment.

At a pivotal moment in the West Wing, the administration's disastrous poll slide is arrested by the simple strategy, scrawled on a napkin by an aide, of "letting Bartlet be Bartlet". Brown's best bet is to follow the spirit of this advice. Be himself, relax, let people get to know him more with all his flaws and eccentricities, take the brickbats with good humour and wait for the tide of opinion to turn.

It makes good sense and if there is a recovery (seems the banking crisis has already settled down) then Brown's ratings are likely to recover.

I think this is only partly correct. There's something odd about the conjunction between democracy and capitalism.

Capitalist economies are like the shares that distinguish them - they go down as well as up. When running for office, parties exaggerate what's going wrong with the economy and exaggerate what they can do about it. When in power they either say they're still cleaning up the mess left by the last lot or that they're suffering under international shocks over which they have no control.

In the midst of all of this the most likely scenario is that governments take credit for successful economies and take the rap for economic difficulties (you have to be able to blame 'someone' for what's going wrong).

Correct diagnosis is of course the key and then you have to sell it persuade people of your view. It's easier if you can demonstrate our economy is doing better than everyone else's. But many people have a magical view of the economy that if there is something wrong in the economy the current government is to blame.

I think we underestimate how severe an economic shock is hitting us at the moment. Gordon's genius so far has been to avoid wild excesses (no more boom and bust) which has kept us out of recession and kept growth solid. Is this transient bumpiness or the beginning of a new economic dispensation?

Martin Kettle has some similar thoughts in today's Guardian The false rhinoceros...

But the greatest collective hypocrisy of our time remains the state of the economy. Indisputably, times are harder than they were. Undeniably, big changes in global financial power are afoot. Yes, growth is faltering, nerves are stretching and politicians are struggling to strike a persuasive note after surfing a long period of rising prosperity. But be honest: is this biting economic distress of the sort that traumatises families, communities and whole generations in the way that the convulsions of the 1930s or the 1980s did? Not yet it isn't.

When I read on yesterday's front pages that a family of four planning a summer holiday trip to the west coast of America, a place which their parents could never have dreamed of visiting, will suffer the "misery" of paying an extra £240 surcharge for the privilege, I wonder who is more deluded, the politicians or the people? And I ask myself what kind of rhinoceros we think we are looking at.

No comments:

Post a Comment