Monday, 25 June 2007

Brown should seek an early election

It would be remiss of me not to mention at least briefly the succession saga currently reaching its conclusion as Gordon Brown assumes the reins of the Labour Party after an interminable handover period.

The incoming Prime Minister's start was auspicious as he found fertile populist ground by stamping his authority on EU negotiations and in particular challenging the French premier during last week’s summit. The whiff of moderate scepticism Brown showed is in line with the views of the greater part of middle-England.

Brown takes over the Prime Minstership at a time when his own management of the economy has delivered sustained economic growth and low levels of unemployment. The flipside has been a budget deficit of £30bn which could ultimately have a high price for all of us. Brown's economics are a strange hybrid of tax and spend old Labour and New Labour enthralled by the private sector. He embarked on huge capital spending projects in health and education, but allowed the money to filter away into public / private initiatives which saw costs spiral. Public money has also been thrown at shortening hospital waiting lists without actually improving the ability of the NHS to deliver their services, or improving the infrastructure of that behemoth. Whether such wastage can prove sustainable will depend on whether the economy continues to expand.

Whether the ex Chancellor’s policies were a calculated and manageable risk , or whether they were based on expedient short-termism, is a matter of conjecture which may begin to become clear during his own premiership.

It seems to me that Brown would do well to call an early election as one of his first acts as Prime Minister. Cameron’s Tories are not yet a viable alternative in government. Their policies are indeterminate, they have profound differences in matters regarding education and in many ways they remain out of touch with the country. Brown may not retain this advantage for long and it would be deeply unwise for him not to seek an extended mandate as soon as is viably possible.

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