Monday, April 14, 2008

He goes down.......

In a weekend that has seen the polls plummet for our Great Leader; Nick Robinson over at the Beeb has some thoughtful comments about the political market place.
Are we facing an economic crisis as big and severe as the Great Depression of 1929? I doubt it but then I'm not the PM who is resting his entire political fortune on that prediction...

Sell. Sell Browns. Sell them now. The message coming from the political trading floor couldn't be clearer. Shares in the prime minister are falling about as fast as shares once did in Northern Rock.
Staff working for Brown and Company are said to be revolting - ministers are reported to have been threatening to punch one another, MPs to have defied the boss to his face and his own team don't get along. That new man in PR - Carter's the name - has been upsetting the old guard who don't like who he's hired and fired and don't know what on earth he knows about their business anyway.

What's more, the shareholders - for the purpose of this extended metaphor, that's you and me - are soon to get a chance to vote on how things are going (at least you are if you live in the large parts of England and all of Wales where there are soon to be local elections). In the political marketplace, the results have already been discounted. Thus, the buyers and sellers of political fortunes have already begun to discuss what will happen WHEN not IF Labour loses. And thus, the papers are already filling with talk of stalking horses and runners and riders for a leadership race which has not and, almost certainly will not, begin.

This frenzy of gossip and speculation in the political marketplace is, of course, being driven by the mood in the REAL marketplace which is reeling from what's now officially described as "the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression'. The gloomier the economic news has become, the more Brown's ratings have slid and the more the talk of a crisis for him has grown.
And how has he responded? With a massive gamble. Gordon Brown is betting his house - or at least the one he currently occupies at No 10 - on his belief that things aren't as bad as they seem or as many predict they will be. As evidence, he points to last week's little reported prediction by the IMF that even though economic growth will slow in Britain, it will be higher than in all the other industrialised economies. He believes that there's time between now and the next time voters get to choose a government to be proved right and that those who've gambled on bust following boom will, once again, be proved wrong.

And, who knows, he may well be right but he may, also, be too late. For in the political world, just as in the financial, markets can take on a life of their own. Or, as one senior cabinet figure put it to me, "the danger we face is that we are just too damaged to recover". Even Gordon Brown's own allies are now restlessly waiting for him to do something to halt the slide. Imminent and avoidable rows on scrapping the 10p tax rate and extending detention without trial to 42 days will hardly help. They will not wait for ever.


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