Brown doesn’t give tuppence about this place

By Brian Feeney (for the Irish News)

It is regarded as bad form to write a polemical column about an election on election day, or so they say.

So let’s talk about three, or maybe four other elections not being held today but which will affect the north both directly and indirectly.

Thirteen days from now a draft set of rules for electing the leader and deputy leader of the British Labour party will be presented to the party’s National Executive, which will issue the final rules in April.

On May 3 local government elections and Scottish parliament elections are held.

Just after those elections, probably on his 10th anniversary of coming to power, Blair will announce the anxiously awaited date of his retirement.

His pantomime horse deputy, Prescott, will do the same, thereby firing the starting gun for several weeks of internecine warfare in the Labour party.

We’re at present in the lull before the storm - and what a storm it will be.

It’s widely expected the results of the local government and Scottish elections will be an abattoir for Labour, a huge backlash against Blair, Iraq, sleaze, spin, cash for honours, hubris.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) is expected to do well, perhaps even supplanting Labour as the Liberals’ coalition partner in the Scottish executive.

The Conservatives are predicted to gain substantial numbers of council seats and control of towns and districts.

Instantly Labour MPs in marginal constituencies all across England and Scotland will be able to calculate their fate at the next British general election.

There’s only one calculation for them to make then.

Will their seats be safer under Gordon Brown as prime minister or under someone else?

That’s all that matters to MPs.

Despite whatever high-flown rhetoric they may employ to explain their political philosophy, the only question that exercises their minds is: ‘Will I hold my seat?’

It’s becoming clearer all the time that the answer is ‘not if Brown is prime minister’.

He’s trailing behind candy-floss Cameron in the polls.

The Conservatives are 4/6, with Labour 5/4 for the next election - scarily close.

Cameron has brought the Tories to 37 per cent in the polls to Labour’s 32 per cent, still short of the magic 40 per cent for an overall majority, but there’s a lot of time to hit the 40 per cent.

Michael Portillo, who knows a thing or two about losing elections, says Brown has all the charisma of a coffin lid. The BBC’s John Humphries says that Brown is the most boring person he has ever interviewed. Rory Bremner portrays him as a geek, a policy wonk, a control freak.

Brown’s efforts to show his human side have disintegrated into cringing embarrassment, most notably his claim that he woke up to the Arctic Monkeys. As for his frantic attempts to disguise his Scottishness and flex his Britishness, they have only earned richly deserved scorn and ridicule.

The truth is, and Brown knows it, if he hadn’t agreed to give Blair a free run for the Labour leadership Labour would not have won three terms in office.

The truth is also becoming increasingly clear that whether deliberately or not, Blair has left Brown a damnosa hereditas.

For DUP members that means a poisoned chalice and a mess to clear up.

The knives are out for Brown. Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn have led the charge, slyly calling their website 2020vision, implying that’s what Brown ain’t got and asking how can Brown offer anything different without denying everything he’s done in the last decade?

In the midst of all this our geniuses here would lead you to believe all Brown needs to worry about is how much money he’s going to hand them if they agree to an executive on March 26.

The real truth is twofold. First, what really concerns our local luminaries is which of them will be going to Washington next week if they promise to be good boys.

Secondly, the details of what money is coming here if there’s an executive are being worked out after our election results at a meeting in London on Friday between officials of the taoiseach’s office, foreign affairs and finance on the one hand and officials from the British Treasury on the other.

Gordon Brown doesn’t give tuppence about this place.

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