Over to you, Mr Brown

If John Howard could beat Mark Latham, then Gordon Brown can beat David Cameron, says Third Way architect Anthony Giddens. In a recent piece for the Guardian, Giddens writes:

Look what happened in Australia. The prime minister, John Howard, is ageing, and he does not exactly exude charisma. His time in office was beset with troubles. In the last election, he was faced by an exuberant young challenger, Mark Latham (of the Australian Labor party), who initially made all the running. Yet Howard came out ahead come election time. Voters went for experience over youth, and if Brown becomes Labour leader and prime minister, the same could happen here.

Should Brown be reassured by this analogy? So Brown’s old and lacking in charisma but maybe by the time voters get into the polling booth, they’ll think that’s a good thing. And who knows, maybe David Cameron will start frothing at the mouth, assaulting cab drivers and trying to rip Gordon Brown’s arm out of its socket. I mean it could happen couldn’t it?

Maybe some new ideas would help too. Giddens new book, Over to you, Mr Brown: How Labour Can Win Again, is packed with new ideas designed to reinvigorate "Labour’s ideological position and policy outlook." It goes on sale later this month.

Some commenters on the Guardian site seem less than impressed. For example:

marketsaremonsters: Hilarious. One of the architects of that fautuous delusion called New Labour now presumes to rescue the movement from the shitpile his thinking ploughed it into in the first place…

welcometoairstripone: I’m one of the many people who’ll be switching to the Tories at the next election. Why? Because frankly the control freakery coming out of the current government scares me witless.

The latest proposals that have leaked out today include massive extensions on the use of innocent peoples DNA to trawl for crimes. We are no longer citizens, we are suspects.

Labour have led a full-on assault on civil liberties that have taken hundreds of years to build up. I have never been so dissapointed and angry in a political party.

You can make all the nice gooey noises about egalitarianism you like. I am no longer listening. Your intentions are only too clear. To become ever more embroiled and interfering in the lives of the people of the UK. Get lost.

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Nicholas Gruen
17 years ago

marketsaremonsters has a good turn of phrase. I laughed anyway.

Andrew Leigh
17 years ago

The Economist put it nicely in 1998 when it said that arguing with Giddens about the Third Way was like wrestling an inflatable man: just when you think you have a hold on some part of it, all the hot air rushes somewhere else.

17 years ago

I remember Bob Goodin once saying that the Third Way must lie somewhere between the Second Coming and the Fourth Dimension

Don Arthur
Don Arthur
17 years ago

That reminds me, Andrew Leigh had an interesting piece in the Australian Quarterly about the rise and fall of the Third Way (pdf).

I think the reason the Third Way fell out of fashion is because it’s a rhetorical approach designed for challengers. It doesn’t provide much help to incumbents. The Clinton campaign started using it in ’91 and Blair followed in the UK. Both dropped the rhetoric once they won office.

Challengers need to reach out to disaffected voters who want to turf out the incumbent but worry that the challenger is too big a risk. When these voters are worried that you’ll tax them into poverty , plunge the nation into debt and go soft on welfare layabouts and criminals, they need a bit of reassurance. You need to sound fiscally responsible and have a good line on personal responsibility. But the risk of making these reassuring noises is that your activist base will revolt. The Third Way is a rhetorical attempt to fuse your activist’s values with the kinds of public noises that will win over the soft vote.

"Tough on crime, touch on the causes of crime" is a typical Third Way response. "Tough on crime" means that offenders go to prison. "Tough on the causes of crime" means anti-poverty, anti-inequality programs.

I’d also say that Oprah Winfrey’s contribution has been overlooked ;)