The Spectre of Missing Dreams

On Friday, Barack Obama is expected to arrive in Britain, and his unique brand of new politics will arrive with him. That British voters back Obama by a ratio of 5-1, suggests that Obamamania will be well received in Britain as in the rest of Europe. The question, however, is what effect is Obama's campaign having on British politics. You don't need YouGov or Ipsos MORI to tell you that British voters are incredibly unhappy with the British political 'class' or 'elite'. However, the Westminster political system has been out of touch will ordinary voters for a long time, so what effect will Obama's brand of inclusive politics have on the already pissed off voters of Britain?

"I have a dream" they are the words once uttered by Martin Luther King that have been used to demonstrate the sher magnitute of the historical nature of the Obama campaign. However, for our own embattled Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, the words "I don't have a dream" would perfectly describe the cause of the rapid detirioration of the Labour party's popularity, and its leader along with it. While many on the left were not big supporters of the New Labour project, most would admit that at the very least, Tony Blair had a vision. In comparisson Gordon Brown appears to be making it up as he goes along.

Many ask why Obama is so popular, the simplest answer to that question is hope. Obama is able to restore hope to so many in society, after the dark days that have loomed over America during the duration of the Bush administration. Obama's campaign is unique in that this hope is felt by both minorities and mainstream society alike. In Britain, this has never happened before. The most frightening thing, however, is that the hopes of the most vulnerable members of British society are being dashed further by the day. Those living in extreme poverty in the fifth largest economy in the world are losing all hope as the party that has historically fought so hard for them, is not just at risk of spending the next decade in the political wilderness, but is making things harder for them on the way down from grace.

Earlier this week, the Labour party announced a shocking attack on the poorest members of scoiety and, more importantly, its own voting base. Rather than helping long term benefit recipients get back into work by offering a gradual climbdown from benefits, Labour instead intends to make people work for their benefits, at a rate of £1.50 per hour. If the Conservatives had introduced it, the Guardian would have crucified them. Instead it was mute, with only Polly Toynbee having the guts to stand up against the view that people don't have jobs simply because they don't want them.

Far from having an inspirational vision like Obama, Brown's political strategy is to pander to the vile tastes of the Daily Mail. It escaped few people's notice that the editorial announcing new welfare policy changes was in the Daily Mail, the home of the kind of ignorance that breads the belief that people chose not to have a career. As with allowing 42-day detention, and the testimony of annonymous witness, and reclassifying canabis against the advice of the governments own chief scientists; this was aimed at pleasing Browns good friend Paul Dacre the current editor of the Daily Mail and editor-in-chief of DMGT's other titles. In the final days of Tony Blair's premiership, many on the left were looking to the future with relief, expecting Gordon Brown to abandon New Labour and return Labour to its socialist roots. How wrong they were.

Over a year after Brown took office, Labour's approval ratings are unimaginably low, an aparent rebranding is long forgotten, and he still has no clear plan about how to move forward. Put simply, while Obama is flying on a wave of unprecedented JFK-esque popularity, Brown is floating adrift in a vast political ocean and shows no sign of reaching shore anytime soon. The most worrying thing, is that Brown seems unaware that his ship has even left port. He's willing to acknowledge difficulties but is unwilling to do anything about them. He acknowledges that his party has had a tough time lately but thinks that voters are just keeping him on his toes and are really overal pretty happy with the government.

The tragic irony is that in Brown this country has one of the most competant leaders it has ever had when it comes to actually running the country and implementing policy. Unfourtunatley, its not much good when he has no dream to go with it. Right now the Labour party is captained by a brilliant navigator who has a complete inability to set a course. If Labour retains Brown as its leader, the best case schenario will be that it spends the next 10-15 years adrift, just as the Conservatives have done. In the worst was schenario, however, he will continue pushing the Daily Mail agenda and the Labour party will sink with very few hands, because they will have already abandoned ship long ago. And thats from someone who took a life belt and swum the day after the 42-day vote.

While Brown may go on for months or years insisting that some miraculous event will redeem him before the next election, the spectre of a missing vision will proceed to haunt him and his party for years to come, just as it did the Conservatives over a decade ago.

Pictures: IMF; J E Theriot -

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