The British Labour Party appears to have been pulled back from the brink with Prime Minister Gordon Brown making a spirited speech at the annual party conference in Manchester on September 22, promising strong leadership that would overcome the grave challenges, especially the economic turbulence. Mr. Brown’s fortunes seem to have improved as a result of that uncharacteristically bold address where he effectively put down contenders for his job and also pointedly dis tanced himself from the policies of his predecessor, Tony Blair. In an acknowledgment of the impact of the world financial crisis on the British economy, the Prime Minister indicated that the time had come for new policies to address the economic turmoil by pointing out that “the world of 2008 is now so different from the world we knew in 1997,” that it required “ a new settlement.” Mr. Brown’s strong remarks appear to have resounded well with the poll ratings for Labour, which are on a downward trend, showing at least a temporary “bounce.” In another surprise move, Mr. Brown has also reshuffled his Cabinet and brought back the high-profile Peter Mandelson, a known Blairite. The gesture while appearing to be a contrary signal is actually part of an inclusive strategy intended to boost the efforts to provide a stronger approach to the economic turmoil.
The Labour Party, however, still faces serious challenges. It seems unable to shake off its subservience to the American strategic world view, with little evidence of steps being taken to reduce Britain’s involvement in the occupation of Iraq. Meanwhile, Mr. Brown’s rescue measures directed at British banks notwithstanding, the task of salvaging the British economy amid the crisis in the world financial system is a formidable one. The Labour leadership appears afraid to spell out its ideas for the recovery process or for the party itself to rediscover its moorings. Mr. Brown has suggested that for the party to recover lost ground, it would have to reposition itself more to the left, allowing for greater state intervention. But the attempts made to project Labour’s successful interventions in the social sector have not been adequate. Possibly intimidated by a pro-Conservative press and the financial establishment, the party appears hesitant to publicise achievements like the restoration of a number of schools and the infusion of fresh money into the National Health Service. Mr. Brown needs to shed the tentativeness that marks his return to a more interventionist strategy and take bolder steps which could ensure the Labour Party’s revival.
6 months ago