Posted by Ian
While delivering his pre-Budget report on Wednesday, Gordon Brown sounded like a man who had no need for New Year resolutions. He spoke as if he knew precisely what 2007 will bring – which is, along with unstoppable economic growth and prosperity, the keys to the house next door.
On Thursday’s homepage we considered Brown’s likely legacy as Chancellor; but what, peering into the virtual crystal ball here at MSN Towers, might be his legacy as Prime Minister?
It all depends on how long he’s got. My feeling is that he’ll call a snap election within six months of taking over from Tony Blair. He’ll win, albeit with a small majority, perhaps even resorting to a coalition with the Liberal Democrats in order to secure enough seats to remain in power. He’ll then serve a full five-year term before being defeated at the next election in 2012.
My thinking here is that the British electoral system simply cannot take the same party winning more than four times in a row. As John Major put it in 1997, there’s only so much "elastic" in our democracy to permit one party to stretch its hold on government for a given period of time. Four election victories is the maximum, after which the pendulum will always, inevitably, swing back the other way. Britain is, after all, a multi-party nation and not a one-party state.
Who defeats Brown in 2012 is another matter; my gut instinct is it won’t be David Cameron. He clocked up one year in charge of the Tories this week, which we marked on MSN on Wednesday. Clinging on for another six years, all the while inching precariously towards victory, seems unlikely; political leaders aren’t given that much of a chance in this country nowadays. No, instead it will be someone else walking into No. 10 on that fateful Friday morning in 2012, someone as yet unnoticed, as relatively undistinguished as Tony Blair was six years before he took office.
In the meantime, Gordon Brown will have a brief honeymoon as Prime Minister fuelled by people’s excitement/relief/indifference (delete as appropriate) to Blair’s departure. After that…devolution for England? The end of council tax? Peace in our time? A new bank holiday between August and Christmas? He’ll have to be quick if he wants to both secure and distinguish his own achievements in contrast to those of his predecessor.
One word in particular has resounded throughout Brown’s decade-long stint as Chancellor, and is likely to echo throughout his tenure in No. 10: choice.
I don’t drink coffee, so every time I find myself in a place like Starbucks (not very often, to be honest) I’m always at a loss at what to order. I say that, but what I really mean is I’m at a loss at how to order. I know what I want: a cup of tea. What I don’t know is how to get the cup of tea I want (black, quite weak).
There never seems to be the option to simply select A Cup Of Tea. It has to be of a particular blend, or particular leaf, or particular size. But how do I know which one I’ll like? How do I know which is the closest to A Cup Of Tea? Why should I feel like I need to know the names of the world’s tealeaves before offering one of these places my custom?
In the end I usually give in and order a hot chocolate. The belief, seemingly hardwired into the national political psyche, that all people want in this country is endless choice leaves me utterly bemused. It’s substituting the reassurance you feel in knowing what you want and how to get it with the uncertainty of having to commit to a process that’s based more on competition than convenience.
When cold ideology comes between you and a hot drink, something’s gone wrong. Gordon Brown can have this one for free: I’d like to see a Lyon’s Tea Shop back in every high street. And sometimes I’d just like to have the choice to have no choice.