It’s party conference season in the United Kingdom and the governing Labour Party just had its annual confab in Brighton. The mood of the party was even gloomier than the visage of its somber leader, Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The PM tried to give an upbeat speech but his lack of charisma and the party’s electoral problems resulted in moreyawns than kudos.
The Conservatives have been on the comeback trail ever since picking the youthful, moderate and telegenic David Cameron as leader. Sound familiar? Think of him as Tony Blair lite. The Tories are finally living down their reputation as the “nasty party” and it is Labour about whom dire predictions are being made. This should serve as a cautionary tale for both parties in the US and A: during the ’80’s Labour was considered unelectable, likewise the Tories in the late ’90’s and early aughts. Things are never as good or bad politically as they look at a given moment.
The latest blow to Labour’s re-election prospects was the decision by Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper toswitch its endorsement from Labour to the Tories.
Tony Blair spent a lot of time and energy sucking up to Murdoch with the result that The Sun supported Labour in its three recent victories. News Corp’s UK operation seems less ideologically driven than stateside. Apparently, Rupert’s wife leans left and fell for the Artful Dodger’s charms. Gordon Brown is a very smart man but charm is NOT his strong suit. He’s long played Al Gore to Blair’s Bill Clinton but unlike Gore, Gordon isn’t lively in private: he’s a stolid, solid Scotsman. The word dour could have been coined to describe the Prime Minister.
New Labour threw away its golden opportunity to govern for 20+ years when Blair failed to follow the example of Harold Wilson during Vietnam and stay out of an American misadventure. Instead, the Blair government joined Bush in his Iraqi folly. Blair was convinced he could manipulate and moderate Bush’s war lust but he was wrong. Blair went from being the savior of his party to terribly unpopular therein, which, of course, reactivated the bitter and corrosive Blair-Brown rivalry. What a waste.
The good news for the British people that if they want to send Labour a message they can vote for the left of center Liberal Democrats who are a party with a good message but a fatal inability to win enough seats in Parliament to enter government. The other bit of good news is that David Cameron is a moderate Conservative who’s more likely to govern from the center and not the Thatcherite right. Besides, he’s unintentionally funny, which is good for satirists the world around.
I couldn’t resist the cliched post title. Perhaps I read too much Kipling as a tadpole: an unfashionable but brilliant writer who was one of many to write about the sun never setting on the British Empire. Those days are, mercifully, gone but the phrase lives on in literature and rock and roll: