Thursday, 18 December 2008

Will Brown adopt a Putinite approach to campaigning?

Yesterday the Guardian’s Michael White poured cold water on the notion that there will be an election in 2009. He believes that Labour is destined to remain behind in the polls and the party will experience defeat in spring 2010,

“Labour's task is to govern with as much competence and dignity as it can muster in the storm, knowing that it will make a return to government in due course that much easier.”

His view represents a gloomy prognosis for Gordon Brown who will certainly not have an opportunity to lose more than one campaign as leader.

The Prime Minister’s predicament is exemplified by Iain Martin’s op-ed in today’s Telegraph. He portrays Brown as the eternal strategist, uncomfortable with front line campaigning and forever seeking excuses to avoid the country’s verdict.

Whatever the precise truth might be, the image of Brown as lofty technocrat, in stark contrast to the easy style of his opponent, will be employed to heighten the sense of a statist government grown remote from the British people and increasingly blasé about the democratic imperative. If the Prime Minister is seen to prevaricate on a 2009 poll such a perception will become increasingly difficult to dispel.

By White’s formulation, it is possible that Brown can only mitigate the damage he does to any successor for the remainder of his term. Martin believes that an election campaign will inevitably benefit David Cameron, as Britain’s electoral system becomes increasingly presidential.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin shares his British counterpart’s top down approach to government (albeit in a country where statism is a longstanding tradition). He prefers to remain above the fray of campaigning, a dignified detachment which has paid dividends with the Russian electorate.

Brown has shown signs he might employ a similar strategy, depicting himself as world straddling statesman detached from the unseemly politicking of his opponents. Whether this tactic will wear well with British voters remains to be seen.

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