I do feel for Mr Brown. Watching him grasp frantically as all he ever longed for slowly slips through his fingers can thaw even the iciest heart. At root, I’m sure Mr Brown is not all that bad, and were he to have inherited the job he so dearly covets 12 years earlier then he may well have proved a success. Thing is, even if he might have been the right man for 1997, he is nonetheless the wrong man for 2009 and beyond.
The reason? Because he continues to live in an epoch that has slowly ebbed away, and his political and ideological frameworks look curiously dated in a world slowly waking up to the new possibilities of a post-statist era.
You see Mr Brown’s response to any occurrence is a power grab, either on a national scale by hosing ever more of other people’s money at social problems (which his government has helped exacerbate), or on a global one with his single-handed attempts to ‘save the world’; which he didn’t actually say by the way – well, he did, but it wasn’t intentional. Either way, in so doing, Mr Brown always succeeds in evoking a narrative that is increasingly rejected by a society frustrated at having less and less stake in those things that effect them more and more. In this sense, Mr Brown’s extraordinary feats of ‘heroism’ often succeed only in highlighting that which is his biggest weakness – the lust for centralised power.
In essence, then, it is about big state-thinking, the command and control mindset, the bunker mentality, the them and us, ruler and ruled approach, the insuperable barrier between those who have the power and are entitled to indulge it and those who don’t who are expected to be grateful. It is the psychological impulse toward a politics that seeks to exert itself over the largest possible number, in the fervent belief that change can only come through centralised power, and only centralised power (and those who possess it) knows what particular variety of change is for the best. Whether globally or parochially, it is the endless creation of ever more distant power structures that rule unelected over the masses, and implement the imperial ambitions of the contemporary left – it is all this, and alot more, that grates.
Indeed, to this end Mr Brown has recently been as energetic as ever, busily creating his one-world government, his ‘truly global society’, and every time it is trumpeted by his well-meaning PR brigade, it tends to chafe. Whether it is the global regulatory frameworks for the finance sector, or the ever enthusiastic championing of the UN, or the instinctive lurch toward a global institution to police and impose measures upon people in the name of climate change – the point is that Mr Brown instinctively feels the need to rule over ever more bodies, making those who rule ever more distant and ever more remote from those that are ruled, and whipping up a storm of resentment in the process (don’t even get me started on these daft new light-bulbs).
Of course, perhaps the problem is not just Mr Brown, but the mindset of the political class as a whole, of which Mr Brown might be held as the gate-keeper, the zenith of a particularly virulent power-grabbing elite. Whatever, the truth remains that there exists a palpable mood-swing away from the language and ideology of big government, and toward a more organic and self-dependant account of ‘society’ (the biggest buzzwords lately being ‘mutualism’ and ‘localism’).
Put simply, the tide is turning, and for all the supposed apathy toward the political process, the electorate are actually incredibly engaged, and scent the time is right for change. They long to strip away the power of the centre and disperse it throughout themselves, and they see the flourishing of human relationships and institutions that can result (see this fantastic article by Ed West as an illustration of the point). The reasons for why this might be the case are many and varied, but the important point is that this new impulse undoubtedly exists and it is powerful, and should the political classes fail to seize the moment then things can go one of only two ways; either they will be unceremoniously dumped, or they will have to turn the state against the people in ever more illiberal ways.
I tend to think the political classes will change. The long, slow march of the new generation has already begun. And those who attempt to stand in its way risk going down in history, forever mocked and despised, as 21st century Cnuts*
*(or Canutes, if you prefer).