Thursday, June 28, 2007

Goodbye Blair hello Camer...oops, I mean, Brown!

AOG, Madrid

Yesterday, Tony Blair resigned from his post as Prime Minister of the UK. Here in Madrid, and in most of the European press, the headline is "Where next for Mr. Blair?". Hardly anyone is interested in the who, what, when, where and whys of Gordon Brown.

Although no one is saying it very loudly yet, there is a growing feeling that Mr. Brown's time in Downing Street will be brief. It might be bright, it might be great, but it will probably be short-lived too. It isn't so much that he lacks charisma, which he does, it is just that David Cameron, the Torie leader, exudes it from every pore.

He looks like a Prime Minister, he sounds like a Prime Minister, and, most of all, in a country obsessed with class, Mr. Cameron looks very upper class, or at least, upper class enough to be a sort of British Kennedy, something the Blairs never quite got around doing. He is referred to as belonging to the Notting Hill set. And we all know Notting Hill is very chic and well to do.

They were Cool Britannia, Cameron is more Eaton Britannia. Mr. Brown, in spite of an amorous tryst with a Romanian princess at University, is more Lady and the Tramp than Roman Holiday. He's more....I don't know...Coal Miner Britannia? Cameron is the Kennedy's Camelot, and Brown...well...the West End's Spamalot.

Will this make him a bad Prime Minister? Probably not, but it would appear that the British electorate, in line with most Western democracies, vote 40% on policy, 60% on looks and appearance. Even if they would never admit to it.

Nonetheless, there seems to be a, slightly incestuous Cabinet in the making. These are some of the highlights:

David Miliband, the young 41-year-old Environment Secretary who decided not to challenge Mr Brown for the Labour leadership, is tipped for a big promotion to Foreign Secretary, taking over from Margaret Beckett, who was reluctant to leave the Foreign Office. He even has a blog.

His even younger brother, Ed, 37, will head the Cabinet Office, which will have an enhanced role. They will be the first brothers to sit in the same Cabinet since 1929, when half-brothers Austen and Neville Chamberlain served in a Tory government.

Ed Balls, the Treasury minister and Mr Brown's closest political ally, will become the cabinet minister responsible for schools and children in a split Department for Education and Science. A separate cabinet minister will take charge of higher education and science. A husband-and-wife team will sit round the cabinet table for the first time. Mr Balls will be joined by Yvette Cooper, the Housing minister. Is this good for democracy?

It will not matter much. I doubt Mr. Brown will win the next election. After all, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he has made Britain’s economy stronger. Alas, the poor are poorer and the rich richer. But I will say something in his favor. It appears he is about to pull a Sarkozy and give Jack Straw a Cabinet post.Well done Mr. Brown. This is a type of progress.

Will Cameron change this? He looks like he might. And in this media age, looks are everything. Right?

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