My thoughts on Gordon Brown are ambivalent as I have blogged on previous occasions. Whether growth has been achieved at the expense of a public borrowing time-bomb is conjecture that will become increasingly pertinent as the economy slows down, the property boom runs out of steam and interest rates are forced upward. Criticism of Brown’s inefficiencies in public spending, an insatiable appetite for tinkering with new forms of taxation and excessive fondness for public / private initiatives have been tempered by very concrete reservations about whether the Tories could do any better.
The long-term outworkings of Brown’s economic policies are in supremely just fashion, going to come to fruition during the years he hopes to remain Prime Minister. With unmistakeable signs of economic turbulence ahead and given a public perception that the premier has begun his term solidly, it is hardly surprising that Brown is tempted to go to the country sooner rather than later.
For a new Prime Minister to seek a mandate from the electorate cannot be a bad thing for democracy, and personally I believe that such a move would be advisable from Brown’s perspective. Where the prospect of a further poll is slightly less propitious however, is in Northern Ireland as our institutions limp towards five months of existence and the Alliance Party’s leader David Ford makes gloomy predictions that the executive is only being held together by maintaining a consensus of stasis.
Ford’s analysis on this occasion is both astute and unsurprising. The image of a successful and hardworking body “getting down to work” is threatening to run aground on the hard rocks of actual issues.
Confrontation is a necessity in all election campaigns, but when it’s coupled with a hardening of policy and attitudes and the communal posturing intrinsic in Northern Irish politics, it could be all that is needed to bring the nascent institutions to their knees.