Streets Of London: Star Crossed Leaders
Star Crossed Leaders
Six years ago the Labour Party swept to power on the back of it’s youthful image. Tony Blair was a young and active 44-year old leader, bring forth a new age of govt. He was a leader with youthful vigour and sex appeal. Beside him was Gordon Brown, a pale dour and elderly shadow. But six years is a long time in politics.
Last week Tony Blair was admitted to hospital with a condition called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). It is a disturbance of the rhythm of the heart caused by rapid electrical activity in the upper areas of the heart. This causes the heart to rush from a resting pulse of about 70 to anywhere between 140-240 beats per minute. It is not dangerous and it leads to no permanent damage but leaves the patient feeling faint and dizzy.
This condition came onto to Mr. Blair whilst at Checkers for the weekend. He sought medical treatment and spent five hours in Hospital. This included a worrying 20 minutes under a mild general anesthetic when John Prescott was the leader of the country. Mr. Blair blamed the on-set of the condition to much coffee. Not just any coffee, but European coffee. Those dastardly French, when they are not blocking resolutions and ruining a perfectly good invasion are brewing coffee so strong it poisons a man. I am sure Mr. Blair is simply used to nice Nescafe.
Whilst the nation was learning of Mr. Blair’s admission to that great men’s club: the heart condition, Gordon Brown was seen across the nations papers welcoming the birth of his first child. Beaming aside his wife and daughter Mr. Brown looked vigorous and virile. I man in control, breaking into his stride, a late bloomer, but in bloom none the less.
Mr. Brown launched a barely veiled tilt at the leadership at the Labour Party conference a month ago. His speech was a triumph: the setting of the Labour agenda that we could see under his leadership. The triumph was short lived, as was the talk of his succession. For Mr. Blair ascended the stage and delivered his finest ever conference speech. But I think this may have a heroic win in a major a battle for Mr. Blair, not the end of the war.
For though there is no lasting physical damage caused by Mr. Blair’s condition I cannot ruse on what the psychological ramifications might be. For Mr. Blair is a driven and a fit man of fifty. The sudden appearance of his morality must have an effect.
Mr. Blair often traces his drive and ambition to the fact that he lost both his parents young, his father whilst he was only in his early teens. This loss, he has said, was what made him driven to be successful. To seize life while it was there.
Driven men often falter when faced with the fact that they too are mortal. The plague of the suburbs and suburban wives, the mid-life crisis, is such a reaction. Suddenly men are struck with the thought that they have wasted their lives. To right this; they buy a new fast car, or a large American Motorbike, or start eating more roughage, or take up jogging, or model making, or pigeon fancying, even leave their wives or jobs or simply grow a beard. Mr. Blair has no time or fancy for a mid-life crisis. What rash change does a man make when he has just invaded and occupied a country?
So Mr. Blair stands astride a mid-life crisis, with faltering health and falling popularity.
While Gordon Brown is being seen now as younger and sexier than he once was. He was once the old man of Labour Politics, cautious and dour. In his role as Chancellor, he was the holder of the purse strings. While other Ministers go forth and make pronouncements on improvements and sexy policy that will improve people’s lives, the Chancellor is the Minister that talks of responsibility, caution, and prudence. The Chancellor is the boring Minister; he is the Class Captain taking the role rather than a leader. It was just a sad chance of nature, that he is also a Scotsman.
Gordon Browns image as Chancellor is changing however. He is now not perceived as being as prudent as he once was. He is missing all of his targets, with Govt. income falling due to a lower corporate tax take and the slowing of the housing market. He has been on a slippery slide since the “internet bubble” burst, but through some optimistic positive forecasts for Economic Growth, he has kept the spending levels up. But, those forecasts are now coming home to roost. They are now being seen to be wildly optimistic, which means all his projected income is wrong. The exchequer is not as full as his continued spending would suggest.
Now, the majority of commentators would tell you that this is a bad thing for the Chancellor. But I think it is a good thing. He is now seen as more rock and roll. He is now seen as a man with an edge. He is now spending outside of means; he is betting against the house, he is taking a punt. And everyone loves a rebel. He is now, looking like a bit of a charmer. Gordon Brown is becoming an economic lovable rogue.
With his newfound sex appeal his new paternity also softens his image from that of the dour Scotsman. The absolute joy that it has brought him will endear him to a nation of wives and mothers. His young wife endears him to a nation of older men.
Gordon Brown looks for the entire world like a man for whom life is just beginning to get exciting. Tony Blair is looking like a man that the excitement of life has taken it out of him. Life force affirmed, life force on the wane. It is just a matter of time and stubbornness. It is just a matter of personal pride and community spirit. How long will Tony Blair fight nature for his own ends, above those of the Labour Party? It is just a matter of waiting.