Tuesday, 5 August 2008

It's time to be nasty to Gordon

I chose the name of this blog before I had any idea what I would write, but there are many subjects on which my opinions are firm so "bigot" seemed appropriate somewhere in the equation. As the weeks have rolled on it has become clear that my musings are, perhaps, not all that bigoted after all. For example, usually I choose not to attribute motives to actions I disagree with because I feel it serves little if any purpose to do so. Mine is not a swear-blog, it is just an opportunity for me to throw out some views - many ill-formed, some reasonably sound, all matters of interest to me. Sometimes, however, I have to touch on a subject that makes me want to be really nasty. Nothing, at this stage of British history, prods my nasty button like the current government. It is all the rage to rage and I want to throw in my modest contribution. It is time to talk bluntly about Gordon Brown and that requires me to be nasty.

I have to start by asking what qualities are required to be an effective Prime Minister. It seems to me that there are too many to count but leadership is undeniably the first quality, leadership of the government and leadership of the country.

How does Gordon rate as a leader of his team? Not being in the cabinet I cannot speak from first-hand knowledge so I have to rely on what I have observed, read and heard. If we take his time as Chancellor of the Exchequer it is plain beyond argument that he did not trust other members of the cabinet. His biannual budgets were only disclosed to the Prime Minister shortly before they were delivered and policy in all departments was affected by his need to interfere. It was not enough for him to set the budget for each department, he needed to oversee how that budget was spent. One might observe that the bunch of shocking incompetents appointed to high office since 1997 did not deserve to be trusted, but that is a different issue, the fact is he did not trust them. That is not a sign of a good leader of a team.

His leadership of the country has been non-existent. He started by saying that he wanted to let us know his vision for Britain. That was the correct starting point, because it was only fair to let the country know whether it would be more of the same or something different. All I can remember of that vision is "British jobs for British workers" (completely illegal under EU law), a proposal to tax plastic carrier bags and today's great initiative of holding cabinet meetings outside London. These are not leadership of a country they are ad hoc gimmicks. Everything else he has done in the last year has been a reaction to events, usually a panicked reaction when events had overtaken him. Sometimes events overtake even the most competent Prime Minister for a short while, but qualities of leadership and judgment can bring matters back under control. Gordon's problem is that he is not a leader.

Leaders need to believe that people will follow them, they need confidence in their own ability to lead. Confidence in your ability to make a sound judgment is one thing, confidence that other people will follow your judgment simply because you say so is another thing entirely. People only follow their leader when they have confidence in his judgment.

Today Michael Vaughan resigned as England's cricket captain. His batting has not been at its best for some time, but he knew, and followers of cricket knew, that the players respected his ability as a captain to guide the progress of the game. It was not his fault that England lost to South Africa yesterday, he tried every trick in the book to combat the South African batsmen. Things started to drift away before tea but he took command, changed the field and swapped his bowlers around to maximise the chance of an England victory. The defeat was despite his captaincy not because of it.

If we look at it from a different perspective we can see the task Michael Vaughan faced yesterday. England started the day in a good position but they were facing an extremely good team, man-for-man probably a more skilled team, and there would be a time when South Africa took the advantage. Rather than looking at what Michael Vaughan did through our televisions, let's try to be him and see the challenge he faced. The opposition start piling on the runs and one of your bowlers is not on good form. What do you have to do? You have to change thing, you have to work out a plan. "I'll have 4 overs of swing up the hill and some spin down the hill, then switch the end of the spinner and give them some pure pace downhill, see how that works." "I'll move the field to give the impression the bowler is planning to attack leg stump when in fact he's planning to attack off." "I wanted 4 overs of swing, it's not working after 2, I'll change tack, take him off after 3 and give the fast man a go." Whatever the tactics are they can only be implemented if you have confidence in your team to perform and the confidence of your team in your decisions. I bet there wasn't a single England player on the pitch yesterday who would have swapped their position for Vaughan's and every one of them would have looked at how he manipulated his bowlers and fielders and said he did exactly what a good leader should do. It didn't work, but that isn't the point, the point is that he had the character to do it rather than let the game drift away without a fight.

Gordon has not displayed any such qualities in his year as Prime Minister. There has been no guiding of events, no experimentation to try to outflank his opponents, no anticipation of what might happen, no plan to cut the attack off at the pass. We have had a year of horses bolting and stable doors being slammed with a lot of noise long after the nags have run three Grand Nationals and been dragged to the glue factory. The simple fact is that the man is not a leader. He is not a leader of his team and he is not a leader of the country. Nothing can change that, it is a matter of character. And that is why Gordon must be condemned.

There is nothing wrong with not being a leader provided you never seek a position of leadership. This man fought tooth-and-nail to become Prime Minister. Maybe he did not know he is not a leader, some might think, but I believe that can never be the case. We all learn from an early age whether we are leaders or followers, we witness it in countless things we do during our lives and only an arrogant fraud seeks leadership despite knowing he is unsuited to it. Gordon sought the premiership out of pure selfish arrogance. He wanted to be able to say he'd done it. He knew he wasn't up to the job but he didn't care, he just wanted to be there.

Gordon Brown has made Britain his fag-hag.

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