Saturday, 26 June 2010

Machine Politics

You read an article and you predict the decline and fall of a Prime Minster:

Tony Blair is a highly risk-averse politician who nevertheless likes to play for very high stakes….

…His friend and rival Gordon Brown is another risk-averse politician, but one who prefers to play for low stakes, endlessly and tirelessly working for percentages to build up his political reserves, never willing to put all his eggs in one basket. (David Runciman)

Too cautious! And how he upset the Fleet Street hacks; who wanted their excitement and their election expenses. But Brown was frightened off; apparently by the Conservative policy of changes to the Inheritance Tax; that rich man’s crusade... he wobbled; and fell. The hacks hated him – not only did he lose them their bonuses, but their respectability: they have neither insight nor inside knowledge, it appears.

During all that frenzied speculation I remembered Runciman’s analysis. The prediction was easy.

And here is Russell for some hindsight:

A politician, if he is to succeed, must be able to win the confidence of his machine, and then arouse some degree of enthusiasm in the majority of the electorate. The qualities required for these two stages on the road to power are by no means identical, and many men possess one without the other. Candidates for the Presidency in the United States are not infrequently men who cannot stir the imagination of the general public, though they possess the art of ingratiating themselves with the party managers. Such men are, as a rule, defeated, but the party managers do not foresee their defeat.

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