Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Only connect

Which would you prefer - intellect but no appeal, or charisma on an empty coat?

It's interesting comparing the political scenes in the UK and the US at the moment where Gordon Brown is struggling and failing to walk in the PM's shoes, while Barack Obama looks ever closer to becoming the Democrat candidate for the Presidential election.

Last week an American described Obama to me as an 'empty coat'. Okay, so said American described himself to me as 'socially and fiscally conservative' and therefore I guess he's never going to vote for Obama. But my contact was someone who has met Presidents in the past and has taken quite an interest in the primaries this time round.
His take on Obama is that he speaks a lot and says nothing. That he's all front and no substance. That has to be a worry.

Gordon Brown, texture like sun, on the other hand seemed to be a very full coat, possibly over a stuffed shirt when he ascended, unopposed and without popular mandate to become Prime Minister.

After 10 years of carefully-managed stage presence, Tony Blair was supposedly giving way to the real intellectual powerhouse. We'd been waiting a while for the great brain of Brown to fill the policy void: to bring his massed array of talents to the thorny problems of a society without optimism and an economy without confidence.
So what did we get? Well not a lot. The lack of showmanship would be forgiven if it was matched by a decisive air, nimble politicking and the essence of statesmanship.
But there's none of that. Brown had built an air of expectation and has disappointed on every front. He seems cowed by the responsibility of power and quite unable to handle more than one issue at a time. The result? Paralysis in Number 10 with the party hawks circling.

Now would David Cameron be any better, or is he just another empty coat? The jury's still out.

Today, we have many politicians relentlessly schooled in the arts of communication or the black arts of party politics. We have few, if any, statesmen expert in both and with the humanity to make a positive difference.

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