Posts Tagged ‘gordon brown’

Why the UK needs a Jon Stewart

Posted on: April 8th, 2010 by Graeme Codrington 1 Comment

I really don’t like how the UK media (especially radio and TV) do political interviews. The journalists are exceptionally and unnecessarily antagonistic, and seem much more intent on tripping up their interviewees than finding any facts or truth in the interaction. They’d consider the interview a success if they can corner the interviewee and get them to make a badly considered statement. In tiny doses, it can make for interesting viewing or listening, but it really gets wearisome quite quickly. There is space in British media for someone who will do a good job at interviewing with a wholesome outcome in mind – especially politicians.

But I’d also suggest that there is space for someone like Jon Stewart from The Daily Show. His stock in trade on his Comedy Central news show is to take archive clips of politicians and public figures and contrast these with something they’ve just recently said. For example, last night he reportedly incredulously on John McCain’s statement late last week that “I never considered myself a maverick.” As Stewart said, this is so obviously revisionist that he didn’t even need to show archive material to make the point. “Maverick” was almost the entire foundation of McCain’s presidential campaign.

Stewart does this every day to devastating effect, and provides real insight into the character of individuals and organisations. In fact, in a poll a year or so ago, Jon Stewart was voted as the most trustworthy news source in the United States (that says more about the US than Stewart!).

I think the UK could do with someone who does what Stewart does. I find it hard to believe, for instance, that Gordon Brown’s words as Chancellor are not shown over and over again in the media, or that opposition parties do not make more of them. For example, in Mr Brown’s first budget, in July 1997, as the new chancellor, he lambasted his predecessors who “deluded themselves into believing that growth, however unbalanced, was evidence of their success.” He vowed: “I will not ignore the warning signs.” Hr promised: “Public finances must be sustainable, [otherwise] the poor, the elderly and those on fixed incomes… will suffer most.” There were other now-ironic gems, such as “I will not allow house prices to get out of control” and “This is a government that keeps its promises on tax.” On occasions, he claimed to have abolished the cycle of boom and bust, and saved the world (this last one was an unfortunate “mis-speak”, but is still fun to watch. The others were all said in earnest).

The flip-flopping, spin doctor-managed politicians need to be held to account for their words. The UK media doesn’t do a good job at doing this. We need a Jon Stewart. Are any of UK’s comedians up for this?

Dear Mr Clegg, can I trust you? (The case for a hung parliament)

Posted on: April 6th, 2010 by Graeme Codrington 13 Comments

For immediate release, 6 April 2010


Dear Mr Clegg,

Can I trust you?

The Prime Minister announced today that the General Election will take place on 6 May 2010. I now have four weeks to choose who to vote for – and it’s not as easy as I thought it would be.

Labour might be an option if they were offering a change in leadership. But I cannot in all good conscience vote back into power a man who has never received an electoral mandate for his position, and spent ten years putting the economy at immense risk before seeing it all collapse around him. The Conservatives would be my only logical choice then, but they really do just feel like more of the same. They sound as if they’re led by the results of a focus group rather than a clear plan to fix the country’s problems. Like millions of other middle class voters, I know this country is in a deep hole and that little changes here or there are not going to solve anything.

So, here is my problem. I want my vote to mean something and to make a difference to the future of this great nation. The Lib Dems seem to be my only hope. But I need to know that I can trust you.

Let’s be honest. You won’t win the election outright, and you’ll never be Prime Minister. I know you have to campaign as if you could win, but we all know you won’t. In this election, though, you could prevent the Conservatives from obtaining an ouright majority. A vote for you is probably a vote for a hung Parliament.

Now, before you protest, I happen to think that could be a really good thing. But I need to know I can trust you.

If we do get a hung Parliament after 6 May, I need to know that you will not think of yourself as a “king maker”. One of the problems right now is that MPs seem to have forgotten that they are in public service – in the “service of the public”. If you focus on your role as “king maker” to either Labour or the Tories, you will be in danger of acting as if Parliament itself were the end goal. You’ll never be Prime Minister, but you do have the opportunity to go down in history as one of the most extraordinary political leaders of all time. To do that, you need to do what other great leaders have all done in times of national crisis – put the country’s interests before your own; put the people’s interests before your party’s.

A hung Parliament in which the Lib Dems hold the balance of power will be able to do a number of things that a Conservative or Labour government could not. Assuming you form a coalition with the Conservatives, a hung Parliament would allow the Tories to break their election promises on government spending without losing face. We cannot solve the economic woes of Britain while ring fencing NHS (or any other public entity’s) spending. We are in a huge debt crisis, and it would be good to be treated as adults on this issue, especially during the next few weeks of campaigning. I will see how much I can trust you on this issue by what you say about debt and public spending whilst on the campaign trail. You will win my vote if you tell me the truth, and tell me that it must be fixed. Can I trust you to force whichever party you align with to do the right thing, and not just the expedient thing? Can I trust you to use your mandate to reduce public debt, slash public spending (including unecessary benefits), get rid of bureaucracy and set our country on a growth path again?

I know there are no magic wands and easy solutions. Believe me, the last few years have been tough on me and my family, and we know what it takes to cut back and aim to merely survive for a time. We also know the good feeling that comes from making it through those tough times – and knowing it is not mere illusion and that we haven’t mortgaged our children’s future to do so.

There is no doubt that Vince Cable is the most credible of all options for the role of Chancellor – I hope you would hold out for him to be appointed as such. His recent performance on the televised “Chancellor’s debate” showed he is head and shoulders above either of the other two candidates. He seems to have always been saying the right thing about the economy and would be a superb corrective to two decades of Mr Brown’s policies. I’d trust him with the economy. Can I trust you to make sure he gets the job, even at the expense of your role in the Cabinet?

I’d also like to trust you to get fully behind Mr Cameron if you do form a coalition. You could be tempted to continue petty politics and undermine him at every opportunity. But a much more important contribution to Britain, including restoring Britain’s lost international credibility, would be to support his policies (after taking a few weeks to hammer out some of the details that you would rightly be able to insist upon given your position in a hung Parliament). Can I trust you to support them as if we were a nation at war and needed a government of national unity?

I grew up in South Africa, and my first vote in a National Election was the historic vote in 1994 that saw Mr Mandela swept into power. Although he had an overwhelming majority at the polls, he nevertheless insisted on a government of national unity, focused on the task of nation building. The United Kingdom feels a lot more divided than it has ever been, and it is bruised too – in many ways. Can I trust you, Mr Clegg, to be part of the solution? Can I trust you to rise above politicking and put your country first? Can I trust you to make the best use of a hung Parliament?

I look forward to hearing from you in the next four weeks, and especially to see you in the televised debates. I have a feeling you’ll do very well in them, as the other two leaders try to say nothing much more than “we’re not them” as they jeer at each other. Please stand above this pettiness, and give us a vision of what it’s going to take to really fix this nation.

I want my vote to count on 6 May. I think you might be just what our country needs right now. As crazy as it sounds, a hung Parliament might be the best case scenario. But it’s a risky strategy, and I am nervous. Forgive me asking, Mr Clegg, but can I trust you?

Yours sincerely,

Dr Graeme Codrington
London, SW20

NOTE: This open letter may be freely re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line – “Written by Graeme Codrington, founder of TomorrowToday Ltd,”.

The PM’s misspelt letter – a parable of modern Britain?

Posted on: November 10th, 2009 by Graeme Codrington No Comments

Poor old Gordon Brown. The Prime Minister of Britain just can’t seem to do anything right. This past week, he did what he always does, which is to hand write a letter of condolence to a bereaved family member. Every time a British soldier dies, Gordon Brown writes a personal letter to the family. But his past week he misspelt the name of the serviceman, calling him Jamie James, instead of Jamie Janes, in a letter to his mother. He had made this same mistake when he had read Jamie’s name in Parliament a s few days earlier.

Mrs Janes was outraged, and took her story to the newspapers (The Sun – the most sensationalist national newspaper available!). She made such a noise about it that Gordon Brown phoned her to chat about it (I do not say “apologise” because he refuses to accept he made a mistake). She then recorded the conversation and provided the recording to The Sun (listen to it here, while watching a video that includes a copy of the letter). Read more about the story here.


How will history view Labour's and Brown's legacy?

Posted on: September 29th, 2009 by Dean van Leeuwen No Comments

“It is the fighters and believers who change the world. We’ve changed the world before and we will change it again.”

I’m listening to Gordon Brown’s conference speech in Brighton, using the wonder of internet streaming. Brown has come out fighting and I have to say a lot of what he says makes a lot of sense. I know many people believe that Labour does not stand a chance of being re-elected under his leadership, and this may be the case. Gordon Brown has made mistakes as PM and Chancellor, but I can’t help wonder where the UK would have been had another political party been in power at the time of the credit crunch.

For all his faults, Brown responded quickly during the credit crisis, and with strong leadership. It could even be argued that he saved the day. He had two choices: adopt a laissez-faire policy and allow the markets to correct themselves, risking jobs losses and a slump into a depression; or, bail out the banks by coordinating a global response at the G20 summit and pumping millions of pounds into the failing finance system. We know which one he chose and I think many people can be relieved that they have their jobs today, because he made a swift actions. Although on the downside we are going to be paying for this decision for at least the next ten years. The reality – there was no easy solution. Both choices available to Brown a year ago had negative ramifications. He was in many ways dammed if he did, dammed if he didn’t.

It looks unlikely, based on current polls, that Brown will be able to pull a re-election out of the bag on the back of a powerful speech, but I sense from the tone at the conference that it will not be as easy an election win as the Torries want us to believe.

Gordon Brown has identified one issue that may be critical to his chances, connecting with people’s changing values. If he is able to do this and connect with the prevailing mood of Britain he may yet pull off one of the most unlikely political come backs. Mr Brown will be hoping his speech today can change that sentiment before the general election campaign begins. We will have to wait and see, it is going to be an interesting election