Madness & the Labour Party

May 31, 2008

Thanks to a minor operation, I suddenly find myself with a great deal more free time, part of which I have spent catching up with the slow decline of Gordon Brown’s mental health, and by extension that of the Labour Party as a whole.

It’s fascinating, it really is. In any form of company, a chief executive who spent his time dealing with complaints from individual customers would be seen as a pathological control freak. The minor PR benefits in no way make up for the time lost by someone meant to be providing strategic direction to the organisation, in this case Britain. And this has supposedly been released in an effort to make Brown appear more human? If this is his most human caprice, I fear what else may be lurking behind the doors of No. 10.

More worryingly, the Prime Minister’s reality disconnect appears to be spreading to the rest of his party. Draper writes 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.” Draper asks us to believe that, instead of one man in an incredibly stressful job who has been described by members of his own party as ‘psychologically flawed’ cracking under the pressure, the rest of the nation has gone mad.

Leaving aside the amusingly ironic way in which Draper attempts to use Freud to transfer the blame for Labour’s current poll ratings from its leader to the public, this is something I’ve seen elsewhere in the Labour Party too. A couple of weeks ago, while out guerilla campaigning, I met my opposite number in the Islington Labour Party, and had a long chat about the London election. Even taking into account the slight mental disturbance generated by meeting a Geordie who introduces himself as your nemesis, the poor boy seemed entirely incapable of processing why Ken had lost. The combination of high taxes and allegations of corruption didn’t appear to be featuring on his radar at all. And it appears to be the same with Draper.

Labour hasn’t just been making mistakes. It’s been making fundamental miscalculations. It’s been holding down public sector wages to lower inflation – while at the same time allowing the tax on fuel to rise along with the price, giving Brown additional funds but simultaneously contributing to inflation. I am not convinced that the public blame Brown for the economic downturn – but I am convinced they blame him for making it harder for them to live with. And yet Brown still manages not to see it. The 10p tax band removal was a classic example, one that should’ve been flagged up as obviously against the interests of their core vote as soon as it came up – but it didn’t. Again with the relative lowering of public sector wages. Nervous Labour MPs have started forcing him to take account of these concerns on particular issues, but still there appears to be no change of direction from No. 10, no even slight admission that the current approach is not working.

The problem is, as many commentators have said, that Brown is psychologically incapable of admitting his mistakes. And he is passing this on to the rest of his party, in a real example of ‘Crowd Behaviour’, as Draper puts it. Is it possible to have an entire political party sectioned?

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