Thursday, August 23, 2007


Gordon Brown has been Prime Minister of the UK for about two months now, and I’m still trying to figure him out. You see, we Americans are suckers for the fast talking huckster who will tell us anything we want to hear, so Tony Blair was quite popular over here. And as an avid watcher of Prime Ministers Questions on C-SPAN, I was a big fan of Mr. Blair’s quick wit at the dispatch box.

Mr. Brown seems to be quite a different character. He stutters when he speaks, wears somewhat ill-fitting suits, and appears in every way to be the kind of dull stereotype of a bureaucrat. But when he gave his first speech to Parliament as Prime Minister, he proposed stripping himself of several important powers like the power to declare war and dissolve parliament. It was a pretty bold agenda delivered by a guy who’s had 10 years to prepare the speech. So that’s Brown’s thing, I guess, he’s both bold and dull.

All of this has changed the dynamic of my favorite soap opera, the British House of Commons. Unfortunately, it’s in summer reruns until October, but they did have a few episodes with the new lineup before the summer hiatus.

Just from watching TV, it would appear that dashing young Conservative leader David Cameron has the upper hand. Cameron is a rich white guy who went to Eton. His main task these days is trying to prove to voters that the Conservative party is no longer just a bunch of rich white guys who went to Eton. He seems energetic and confident and loves to talk about the future. Sounds like a young Tony Blair.

Meanwhile, Brown appears ill at east during question time, and Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell just seems like a cranky old man who wishes these kids would get off his lawn. With that understanding, Gordon Brown seems destined to follow in the footsteps of short-timer Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.

But I understand the perception on the ground back in the UK is quite different, and there are two reasons why that’s not apparent from watching TV.

First, American’s are suckers for English accents. Anything said in an English accent will sound brilliant to an American. A Brit could stand up and read the phone book aloud and most Americans would think he’s quoting Shakespeare. (The opposite is true with southern accents, which could make rocket science sound primitive.) So when a guy like David Cameron speaks, I’m completely blindsided and unable to filter out BS like any normal person should.

But most importantly, from this far away it’s impossible to see just how sick the British public is of Tony Blair. I’ve heard it from enough places (news reports, personal contacts, comments left on this very blog) to believe it’s true, but it’s pretty hard to see from here. I mean, Tony Blair seems like such a nice guy, and he speaks with this great English accent… oops, there I go again.

So perhaps the Brits are looking to cleanse their palates after a decade of American-style sleaze. If so, a rumpled Scot who looks a little bit like a koala bear may just fit the bill.

And perhaps there’s something else going on. Perhaps Gordon Brown isn’t as dour as he seems. When the new PM met Our Brave Leader a few weeks ago, President Bush described Brown as “the humorous Scotsman.” This is significant because Bush didn’t try to look into his soul, which can apparently cause a guy to turn into a steely dictator.

But maybe the president is on to something (there’s a first time for everything). Maybe Gordon Brown is a barrel of laughs just waiting to come out. Maybe he’s spending the summer working up some zingers to hurl at David Cameron (feel free to use my Eton joke, Gordon).

Alas, we American television viewers will have to wait until October to find out.

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At 3:47 am, Blogger Birchsprite said...

they are both a pair of eeijits

At 12:46 pm, Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Sorry, I got to that part where you mentioned how brilliant British people sound when they speak, and I sort of got distracted.

They do sound lovely, don't they?


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