Nanny State Foibles; United Kingdom's Gordon Brown Flounders

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 24, 2008 | Go to article overview

Nanny State Foibles; United Kingdom's Gordon Brown Flounders


Byline: Helle Dale, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The fate of British Prime Minister and leader of the Labor Party Gordon Brown ought to be a salutary example for American politicians advocating the return of the nanny state. This week, the Labor Party meets in Manchester for its annual party conference, and oh, what a difference a year makes.

Last year, Mr. Brown had just taken over the prime ministership from his political partner Tony Blair and was riding high on soaring early approval ratings. This year, he is hanging on by the skin of his teeth, with a 22 percent approval rating and a simmering rebellion among junior members of his party just barely quelled. By some accounts he has been given 9 months to turn the Labor's fortunes around, or step down to give a new leader a chance before elections have to be held by June 2010.

The immediate cause of Mr. Brown's troubles is the distrust of the British electorate, which he earned last fall after promising snap elections only to change his mind in a very public, but not very confidence-inspiring way, after polls showed that Labor would lose. Labor's standing was in trouble after the departure of Mr. Blair, and Mr. Brown's dark personality was no match for the new media savvy Conservative leader David Cameron. Today, the Conservatives are 28 percent ahead in the polls.

Then there was Mr. Brown's reversal on the promise made by his predecessor that the British people would have a chance to vote on the EU Lisbon Treaty, the latest version of the EU Constitutional Treaty. The British are among the least enthusiastic Europeans and finding themselves deprived of the opportunity to vote on a matter of critical importance for their sovereignty as a nation, which has left a bitter taste with many.

But beyond these major political missteps, there are real issues of policy that are of concern for the British public - and indeed those who have a mind to learn any lessons from Mr. Brown's doldrums. In fact, the more you think about it, parallels between the United States and Great Britain, the two largest economies in the G-8, begin to look prophetic.

By contrast to his predecessor, Mr. Brown has revealed himself to be an old-fashioned British socialist, of the kind the world has not really seen since the 1970s when trade union power brought the country to its knees with strikes and riots. …

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