OFF THE GRID

Gordon Brown Puts On a Show

Jun 8, 09 | 9:21 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Gordon Brown is over, done with, kaput, finis. There isn’t a sentient person not on his payroll who’d say otherwise. Since he inherited the leadership of the Labour Party—already compromised by its support of George Bush and the Iraq war—from a grudging Tony Blair, Brown’s faced the financial meltdown (next to Iceland, the UK is probably the hardest hit nation), and, more recently, the Parliamentary scandal, in which much of his Cabinet engaged in the most louche expense-account cheating.

And neither of those may be the worst of his problems. The worst may be his own personality. The prime minister carries the air of weariness and resentment and disappointment that hangs over Britain. Getting rid of Gordon Brown is just so obviously the first thing you’d do to make yourself feel a little better. It’s just opening the curtains.

Brown faces the further difficult predicament of having to exist in the same moment as Barack Obama. One embodies speed and hope and eloquence, the other a labored sense of unutterable inevitability. It’s the future is coming versus the end is near.

It’s a political set piece: The leader has been brought low by inexorable forces beyond his control as well as by his own staggering inability to rise to the occasion—and now we merely watch how the end plays out, with absolute assurance that it will.

Is there anything redeeming here?


(Gordon Brown, AP Photo)

The long, slow, relentless agony of the fall is probably good for all other political factions, allies and opponents alike. Everybody gets this certain endgame to fortify his or her own position. No reason not to let it go on, if you know it will end. In a way, it’s a lovely period for everyone else—a time for dreaming about your own hopeful future. As he sinks, everyone else rises.

But what about the public that has to witness such minute-by-minute agony? It can’t inspire young men and women with heart and imagination to public life. On the other hand, retribution is compelling. It is fortifying to learn that people can’t get away with everything. Such slow and methodical abuse reanimates democracy, perhaps. The ridicule is good. The ultimate punishment is the stripping down of the ego.

And something else—perhaps to Brown’s credit: He doesn’t just go. He’s going to go; it is going to be taken from him; after the vilification and the ridicule, he will be left with nothing—that is certain. And yet he hangs on. He mounts a further effort. He plots. He even dreams, perhaps, of a storied future. He is hapless and indomitable at the same time.

And then it is over.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com.
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