Monday, 2 June 2008

In the Brown Stuff

Andrew Rawnsley has a great post on the current situation facing Gordon Brown and Labour. I think I pretty much agree with everything he says in the article, and have very little else to add to it. Not that I won't just regurgitate his argument as though it were my own:

While the polls suggest that a conservative victory in the next General Election is pretty much a certainty, there are still two years to go and Labour have two choices: It's unlikely that Gordon can turn things round enough to give Labour victory, but if he concentrates on fixing and improving one or two key areas to a noticable degree, it may be enough to prevent a Tory landslide. Alternatively, he can step down (or be pushed down) and let someone else in. The problem with this second option is that it makes the party look indecisive (three leaders in two years), while also potentially causing huge internal rifts during a long leadership contest. In addition, the eventual winner would still be unlikely to take victory in two years. However, it would allow any improvements that were made in the tenure of the new PM to be free from the taint that Gordon currently has associated with him.

I don't really mind who's "in charge", personally, since I think that it's general policy rather than personality that is causing the problem. Back when the Tories were self destructing every ten minutes there was less scrutiny on Labour, but with a coherent opposition it's much more difficult to paper over mistakes, and every slip up gets dragged out and exploited for all it's worth. This is no time for risky and unpopular policies - perhaps With a landslide victory just won, but not when you're trailing more than 20 points in the polls, and with just two years to go in a worsening economy. Ideas like the terror-detention-limit extension and ID card introduction are both bad ideas, and ideas that need time to get right if implemented. Trying to rush them through quickly now is only going to provide more fodder to the opposition.

The best thing that could happen in the next month would be for Gordon to drop the ludicrous terror-limit extension, pick up two or three areas that have improved under Labour and consolidate them. Bad press will never go away completely, but if he can offer some antidote to it (and something more than statistics), there is time left for Gordon (or anyone) to salvage something from this government's time in power. What it needs, as Rawnsley makes clear, is for Gordon to stop trying to please everyone and to concentrate on doing what he believes is best for Britain. People may still say he's wrong, but it's more difficult to question the character of someone who sticks to their principles.

On a less up-my-own-arse note, I've managed to find and download an episode of the oddly named 'To Catch a Predator' (which seems to be missing the worrying clause 'Set a Predator...' from the beginning of it). I tried to find a clip of Charlie Brooker talking about it from his series (which, if you have not seen, you must see), but YouTube has sadly failed me. Instead you'll have to deal with boring old text from his Guardian blog.

The program itself is exactly as distressing as it sounds, and is rife with the most irritating kind of American TV editing (30% of the programme is flashing back or forward to clips from the same episode, with a 'previously' or 'coming up' tagged on). If you can bear that, though there's the chance to see people's lives falling apart in a few brief moments on camera.

The episode I watched was from the 9th installment, and the most incredible thing about it was the number of those men (and they are all men) involved who had seen the show previously, and even commented on it in the chatroom conversations. They mention the risks of the whole thing being a sting, talk about previous episodes of the programme, and still turn up at the kid's house.

Adding this level of "it couldn't possibly happen to me" thinking to the idiocy of getting themselves into the situation in the first place give the whole thing a slightly dream-like feeling (if one verging on the nightmarish). When the presenter emerges, the reaction of the men is (from the single episode I saw) remarkably calm. They don't scream and shout or act violently, but mostly remain totally civilized, as though a middle aged man walking in on their solicitation was the most normal thing in the world. They're frozen in the bizarre non-threatening suburban setting, unable to escape their obvious guilt, but desperately trying to appear normal in case there is the slightest chance they can talk themselves out of it.

They chat calmly for a while, sometimes apologising, promising they'll never do it again, hoping against hope that the show is not associated with the police, and that they'll get away without legal action. When the host confirms that he's with the TV company, and is not an officer of the law, some turn and leave immediately, imagining perhaps that their mere presence is not incriminating enough, only to run straight into the arms of the police outside.

Some of the men try to claim that they were only there to wait for the child's parents to return, or that they were there to warn the child of the dangers of what they were doing; claims that are rendered somewhat less believable by the discovery of condoms, lubricant and sex toys on their person and in their cars.

Some simply sit and mumble - saying they don't know what they were thinking or why they are there. Without knowing how much they can admit to and how much trouble they're already in, their vague answers make them sound like they've just woken from a bad dream to find they've been sleep-walking, sleep-typing and sleep-soliciting.

Finally, some of the participants react more like people who've been caught by a clever hidden-camera game show than people facing between two and ten years in jail for trying to have sex with a child. "I knew it!" one shouts, "I knew it was a set up!".

I don't know what their reactions say about modern society, but I'm sure it's nothing good.


Andy J. Wotherspoon said...

I don't really understand english politics (I'm way more aware of US politics thanks to the west wing) but what I gather is that it's a bunch of people arguing over something for no real reason.

It seems that oppositions tend to disagree solely so that they can have an arguement. I'm really not that bothered who runs the country either, i'd prefer it to be as left wing as humanly possible, but that's not likely to happen so i'll settle with something that benefits the country every now and then. I take issue with the whole jumping on a mistake and dragging it out as long as possible tactic, it's just lame, they wouldn't like it if it happened to them. It also seems that the way things work is elect a party until they make enough of a mistake to make you vote the complete opposite then repeat. I guess i'll not be too bothered by a conservative government as long as it's not like thatcher. But no doubt my brother will take issue with it and if I speak to him about it at all he'll probably convince me i should do everything in my power to stop the concervatives getting into power. If that does happen I'll try to post our discussion here.

immedia reaction said...

I think I broadly agree with Patrick. I don't think Brown's incompetent, I just don't like him.

I don't think the public can ever really know politicians, and I hate to say it (because I hated him even more), but with Blair at least people felt like they knew him, which meant they had a little bit more confidence in him.

I was listening to Women's Hour in the car the other day, and one of the commentators made the point that Brown was so selfish in taking all the responsibility on himself that there is no one in cabinet to distract from the fact that he is not very good at PR. He has carefully cultivated an army of grey-faced zombies to do his bidding, but it means none of them can step in to the limelight to take the pressure off him when things get tough,

It also means there aren't really any realistic alternatives to him as Labour leader.

I keep having little flashes of realisation that we're probably going to end up with a Tory government at the next election and it makes me shudder.

TheTelf said...

"I keep having little flashes of realisation that we're probably going to end up with a Tory government at the next election and it makes me shudder."


And having been too young to be politically-minded during the last Tory government, I don't really know what to expect. In some regards, I'm interested to see how it changes things, and if it really does improve the situation for people (as, who knows, it might), then I'm not 100% against it. Though there are huge swathes of right-wing policy I'm pretty solidly against, so on those grounds, it's not a nice thought at all...