Sunday, 9 November 2008

Advising Gordon

I received a rather odd request the other day to write 300 words of advice for Gordon Brown on how to win the next General Election.

It came from a magazine called Oxygen which focuses on the "turnaround industry" and the piece is due to appear in the next issue.

Until this stage of my life, I had lived blissfully unaware of the fact there was such a thing as a turnaround industry.

However, what I had heard on far too many occasions was Bonnie Tyler's really annoying hit record Total Eclipse of the Heart in which that bloke with the high voice sings "turnaround" the whole way through it. Almost inevitably, my introduction to the turnaround industry has led to that song swimming constantly around in my head all week long. Let's just say that I used up the last of my Nurofen earlier today and will be heading off to my local shop again very shortly for some more.

Anyway, here's how I suggested Gordon might save his political skin - hopefully it will be of no use to him whatsoever:

After 12 months of almost constant misery and mishap, the positive reaction to his handling of the economic crisis coupled with Labour’s unexpected win in the Glenrothes by-election has finally given Gordon Brown some hope of turning things around – but not much.

What he needs – and fast – is a clear and simple narrative of what his Government stands for and what it intends to do.

We can all remember Tony Blair’s key pledges from 1997: “education, education, education;” “tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime,” and so on. Also, his overarching strap line – penned by Alastair Campbell – “New Labour, New Britain.”

Yes, on their own, none of these now infamous phrases actually meant anything, but they contributed very successfully to Blair’s promise of a bright new dawn for “Cool Britannia,” as the era was often referred to.

Labour is not alone in its absence of a narrative – there appears to be no sign of one from David Cameron either and this must be exposed by Brown and his Ministers.

And greater efforts should be made to project a more likable feel from the Brown Government. Just as Tony Blair didn’t “do God,” so our current Prime Minister doesn’t easily do public displays of emotion.

My old boss David Trimble was exactly the same – a warm and often very funny and self-deprecating man in private, his public image was one of coldness and anger. So too Gordon Brown but, as with Daphne Trimble in Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister has a wife who can win others’ hearts for him.

Sarah Brown did just this when she introduced her husband at this year’s Labour Party Conference, and some have credited her presence in Glenrothes as the difference between victory and defeat. I would have her hooked to Gordon’s hip.

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