Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Blair's last day

Tomorrow, 27 June, will be the day Gordon Brown takes office as the 52nd Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He will be asked by the Queen to form a government tomorrow. Brown is currently Blair's chancellor of the exchequer and fellow Labour MP, and has been so since Blair has been Britain's leader.

Blair handed over the party leadership to Brown a few days ago (24 June) following his promise at the Labour Party conference last fall he would step down as party leader and prime minister before the next conference. He announced his departure in May. Since the announcement there's been much analysis in retrospect of the 10 years Tony Blair, the current prime minister, has been in power.

Considering the important position he currently fills and the even more important one he will have tomorrow, relatively little is known of Gordon Brown. We know he was actually supposed to become prime minister if Labour won the 1997 election, which it did, but the charismatic Tony Blair ended up getting the gold. Brown has been waiting years for the top job — and less than 24 hours it will be his.

I personally am a bit excited not only because a change in leadership means a change in politics (i.e. more news coverage and more blog posts), but mainly due to the 'war on terror' and fiasco in Iraq Blair has lost his edge. His best accomplishments were helping the economy, reducing poverty, increasing education, lowering crime, continuing the good policies of his Conservative predecessor John Major on making peace in Northern Ireland and achieving that peace, including with the IRA, and helping the NHS — though that was one of his failures too. Blair's worst characteristics were his civil liberties-restricting anti-terror policies and following the necon Bush administration into Iraq.

Expect Brown to distance himself from George Bush. The White House will likely feel the sting of a very different relationship with its English-speaking ally across the Atlantic. However on Iraq Brown is expected to roughly maintain the status quo. A cautious person from what I've read, he will not want to run the risk of pulling UK troops out immediately and being blamed for making the conflict there worse. He has spoken much on Africa and poverty, being at the forefront of aid and debt initiatives.

Brown shares the general viewpoint of many fellow politicians on the threat of global warming — remember he was the one who commissioned the Stern report on the economic impact of climate change. He is a calculated, practical man and has shown to be tough on terrorism — is that good or bad? — and very interested in international affairs, such as the Darfur genocide in Sudan and the Israel-Palestine conflict. We can guess he'll be more 'liberal' than Blair foreign policy wise, but to what extent is not really known.

Here are some links useful for learning more about the PM-in-waiting:
Wikipedia article
BBC News article on his known foreign policy views
Prospect article (year-old) on Brown's foreign policy
Profile by The Economist
10 Downing Street (PM's office) homepage
Guardian Unlimited profile
BBC News profile

And here's some good news to start Brown off on a positive note tomorrow:

Britain's new prime minister, Gordon Brown, will take office this week with his Labour Party ahead of its Conservative rivals for the first time in eight months [i.e. since October], a [Ipsos-Mori] poll showed today.

The poll, in the Observer newspaper, put support for Labour at 39 per cent and the Conservatives at 36 per cent.

Forty per cent of voters believed Brown would make a more capable prime minister, compared to just 22 per cent who prefer his Conservative rival David Cameron.

Still, an early election might not be the best of ideas for Brown. Spring 2009 is the expected time of the next general election. The Conservatives have been doing well for a while now, and it's only recently that the political pendulum appears to have swung in the way of Labor. The Liberal Democrats seem to be proving more stubborn towards Brown than the Tories, demanding a snap election so that Brown can prove himself legitimate.

So who will Brown be governing with? Justice Minister Harriet Harman was elected deputy party leader on Sunday in a surprising win of 1% over Alan Johnston. From the BBC Question Time deputy leadership debate I watched, she seemed a reasonable candidate. She strongly disagrees with Blair's Iraq policies as well as his media spin — something both he and his American counterpart Bush have mastered. Even during the Blair-Brown transition has the government been accused of burying stories. Brown has expressed hopes for a cross-party cabinet, although a Lib Dem has already turned him down after being offered the position of N Ireland minister.

No comments: