Sunday, September 30, 2007

A question of convictions

Convictions, beliefs, maybe even ideologies, have been much discussed since 1997, with Blair being accused of lacking in ideas, following focus groups and jumping on bandwagons. Successive Conservative leaders have sought to show they have ideas, the famous 'I Believe' statements made by Michael Howard being a good example. Brown has sought to distance himself from the Blair image describing himself as a conviction politician in the mould of Margaret Thatcher. While this has been condemned by Conservative shadow chancellor George Osborne because he opposed Thatcherism, he misses the point. The debate centres on who is Thatcher's heir, not the broader connotations of Brown's statement.

Brown's appearance with Thatcher, as pop-duo The Proclaimers said on This Week on Thursday, may not go down well with his voters in Scotland; but he may have seen the publicity side of their meeting to be positioning himself as a certain type of Prime Minister. Strength is clearly a characteristic he wants to demonstrate he possesses, he is not Bush's poodle for example. He also seems to want to make statements rooted in belief as opposed to popularism. It is the image that voters get of him that could be crucial between now and whenever an election is called. If he is seen as stronger then Cameron, and that he possesses (to a greater extent than the alternatives) beliefs that are shared by those whose votes he seeks then he should be the winner. Cameron and the Conservatives cannot undermine him by stealing Thatcher back for themselves, but by questioning Brown's convictions and presenting themselves as sharing the mood of British society. That is the real challenge and given the largely negative view of politicians and their attachment to anything beyond power, it is not something that will easily be sold.

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