OPINION: Brown must start providing a vision

Gordon Brown's supporters are frustrated. Since the autumn election that never was, he has seemed unable to do anything right and Labour Party HQ, Number 10 and the cabinet give the impression of being divided, leaky and suspended in a funk of low morale.

Alex Hilton
Alex Hilton

The primary motivation for leaking information is rarely financial. Usually, leakers are just unhappy in their workplace and it can be a way of getting revenge on a colleague or the organisation for making them unhappy. Ultimately, a leaker has calculated that he doesn't really care if he loses his job.

Under Tony Blair, when Number 10 came under fire, internal rivalries were set aside and the team would instantly gel into an effective machine. He achieved this loyalty from his team because he provided leadership and trusted his people to do their jobs.

And the loyalty went both ways - not even at the height of the cash-for-honours affair did Blair turn on his own people or seek out a convenient scapegoat.

Brown's Number 10 is different, buffeted by his moods, unclear about its overall direction and undermined by his dislike of delegation and excessive interest in detail.

Brown is said to do his own copywriting for speeches and articles; he is said to watch BBC rolling news obsessively. So how do press officers feel valued if the boss does not trust them to let him know if something important happens?

If I had 15 minutes with Brown, I would tell him to start providing a vision of Britain for the next ten years and give his colleagues the freedom to innovate within their portfolios. I would tell him to get rid of the TV in his office and trust his Number 10 team to do its job.

And to appoint a strong general secretary of the Labour Party to rebuild its morale and effectiveness, rather than a weak candidate in hock to various factions.

There is still faith in Brown - a belief that he is operating below his potential and that he has the capacity to lead Labour to electoral victory. But if Brown's horizon remains on the next day's or next week's headlines, he will never convince the voters that he has a vision for the next five or ten years.

Alex Hilton is a Labour parliamentary candidate and founder of political blogs Labourhome and Recess Monkey

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