Using the example of Gordon Brown, the Telegraph’s Mary Riddell explains how even the least mesmerizing of leaders—see all of ours—can emulate Barack Obama.
Even in good times, Brown would not be an Obama-style lightning conductor of public euphoria. Any firm rash enough to market hats embroidered “Gordon” in diamanté lettering would find itself in receivership faster than you can say FishWorks. His soundbites, such as “Real Help Now”, are never likely to be borrowed by Pepsi and emblazoned on buses. Brown-branded soap would not displace Imperial Leather. Still, a nation’s mood is not gauged by gimmickry alone.
Brown should be able to supply exactly the sort of fairytale that Obama has offered America. Their shared wishlist of peace, freedom, rights and disarmament is vital in a recession. Such values, the DNA of national life, cost nothing and engender faith in times of hopelessness. Britain, like America, is in urgent need of some “remaking”…
A gulf is opening between the governed and the governing: political leaders have begun to speak another language. Even when fiscal jargon makes more sense than Cantonese, voters have no way of knowing whether the latest remedies cooked up in backroom bunkers will work, and nor, mostly, have the politicians who devise them. Even so, Brown does not deserve the bitter pessimism his latest bail-out has elicited. No politician has produced a better idea of how to save the economy, least of all David Cameron, whose attempts to talk down confidence are shabbily reckless.
But Brown needs to widen his strategy. That means rescuing from the back-burner all the projects left to stew for want of courage and of time. It means bold moves that have nothing obvious to do with the economy on justice, liberty and the demands of a changing world. Brown has exhorted voters to show some wartime spirit, but he has not explained what territory we are fighting for.
Britain is headed for unknown destinations. We may end up in the euro or, as pessimists think, in the arms of the IMF. When economists offer no more reliable forecasts than Tarot readers, the ancient values of which Obama spoke are the only bridging post between our yesterday and our tomorrow.
The 44th President may yet prove a disappointment. He may not be the blood brother of Brown’s dreams but he has shown how to ignite the national confidence indispensable to any economic upturn. Barack Obama has given America a route map and a story. We, too, need that survival kit.