Sunday, 13 May 2007

Re-Branded Brown Puts His Stamp on Britain's Leadership

Blair's old ally, widely expected to be the next Prime Minister reveals his vision for Britain.

By Liam Bailey

After Tony Blair finally announced Jun. 27 as the date he will step down as British Prime Minister May 10, May 11 became Gordon Brown's day to unveil, what he would do as Blair's successor. Of course, who becomes the next leader of the Labour party and British Prime Minister is pending a Labour party leadership race, but most analysts predict Prime Minister Brown is a forgone conclusion.

Gordon Brown's speech was as much like the re-branding of a pop star as it was an attempt to claw back support for a damaged Labour party. Almost every major policy was airing towards increasing Labour votes, in areas where Brown obviously felt Blair's policies had cost them. By showing the public that he shares their negative feelings over where Blair went wrong, and that his leadership will be very different -- in most cases opposite of Blair's -- throughout his speech, Brown sought to regain support for the Labour party and build support for himself.

The biggest example of this was Brown's attempting to capitalize on the public's deep running anger and in some cases hatred for Blair's overruling most of the Labour party and British public to send U.K. forces into Iraq. In that move, as Brown rightly pointed out, Blair cost Labour the trust of the British public, but not only in the Labour party, in the entire British political system of supposed democracy. Attempting to counteract this Brown said:

"One of my first acts as prime minister would be to restore power to parliament in order to build the trust of the British people in our democracy.

Government must be more open and more accountable to Parliament - for example in decisions about peace and war, in public appointments and in a new ministerial code of conduct.

Over the coming months, I want to build a shared national consensus for a programme of constitutional reform that strengthens the accountability of all who hold power; that is clear about the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen in Britain today; that defends the union and is vigilant about ensuring that the hard won liberties of the individual, for which Britain has for centuries been renowned round the world, are at all times upheld without relenting in our attack on terrorism."

So, Brown was not only telling the British public that he will make sure that neither he, nor anyone else can deploy the British military at will, but he was attacking the move, while attempting to reassure Britain's expanding ethnic minority who have been worried by Blair's ever-tightening laws to deal with terrorism.

Brown also said he will visit the Middle East, to meet with our Armed Forces and ensure we learn from our mistakes, in the interest of creating greater stability.

Another of Blair's controversial policies also with the potential to cost Labour thousands of votes, were policies designed to cap the maximum income of Britain's wealthiest people in an attempt to bridge the rich-poor divide. In an attempt to win back support from the very -- rich -- people, who Brown will need to assist in funding, perhaps his leadership campaign, but definitely Labours next election campaign, Brown said:

"People at the very top are doing a lot better in every country in the world in a global economy -- the task of a national government is to raise the income of the poorest as the best way of reducing inequality."

Brown's using massive public hatred of Blair to strengthen his own leadership prospects didn't stop there. Brown lacks Blair's flair at speechmaking and presentation, so he attempted to highlight Blair's talents as a negative in politics -- suggesting Blair put his image in the public eye before the substance of his policies Brown said:

"As a politician I have never sought the public eye for its own sake.

I have never believed presentation should be a substitute for policy.

I do not believe politics is about celebrity."

In an attempt to re-brand his image as "dour" at best, and at worst "Stalinist", as he was called by a senior civil servant, Brown went for the subliminal message approach. Derren Brown (U.K. performer using subliminal messaging to control people's actions and feint telepathy) must be on his speech writing team -- or maybe they're related?

To tackle the "dour" image Brown repeatedly used words like passion, optimistic, power, energy, drive/ing, inspired, flourishing and thrilling. An example of -- possibly subliminal -- re-branding:

"I am optimistic about Britain because I am inspired when I see the genius of our arts and creative industries, the flourishing of our universities, scientists, entrepreneurs and cities. A new energy, dynamism and often untapped talent which it is our patriotic duty to encourage and it would be thrilling to help unleash."

To tackle his image as "Stalinist" brown repeatedly used words like: involve, engage and shared. He repetitively used words like: listen/ing, learn/ed/, meet, visit, and discuss. In fact he said listen 5 times, learn or learned 9 times, discuss or discussion 5 times, and meet, 6 times. Not all that extraordinary -- but a few examples of extreme repetition suggest they may have been used subliminally:

"I have learned that when you get something right you build on it. But part of experience and judgement is to recognise that when you fall short, you listen, learn and then are confident enough to set new priorities. And I have learned also that the best way to meet peoples' priorities is to involve and engage people."


"In the next few weeks I will also visit our armed forces and visit the Middle-East, to discuss with leaders and our forces so we learn the lessons we have to learn from the last few years as we focus on the best ways to achieve greater stability."

In his closing statements, Brown said:

"For me the weeks of this campaign are a chance to discuss new ideas but also to listen to your concerns. A chance to show how we will meet your aspirations - but also, as we listen, to learn what needs to change.

I will listen and I will learn. I will strive to meet people's aspirations."

So, subliminal re-branding or not, Brown has clearly tried to distance himself from Blair and show that he plans to forge his own path on matters foreign and domestic. But with Brown behind the scenes of most of Blair's domestic policy in his ten year role as Chancellor of the Exchequer, it remains to be seen just how much things will actually change.

One thing is clear, with brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer Britain has improved a great deal economically, so Brown is clearly capable of running the internal monetary matters of the country, and will no doubt do a shrewd job on the tax per benefit ratio.

Where Brown -- like most other candidates -- signifies the unknown is in areas of foreign policy. He has previously spoken of distancing himself from Washington -- another negative of Blair was his closeness with the U.S.. But in this latest speech Brown hinted at U.S. style control over public appointments -- suggesting a potential admiration for their political system, so who knows?

In all honesty no one knows how his foreign or domestic policy will differ from Blair's. But as a Brit, knowing his financial acumen and respecting his experience and strong reputation, I am happy to give Brown a chance -- re-branded or not.

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