The mystery of Broon — contd.

Martin Kettle thinks the unthinkable?

This much, though, is certain. Brown is not ready to give up, but nor is he confident he can win the public’s support back. For whatever reason, he lacks the certainty of his predecessor. Even when Blair was wrong, he was clear about where he was heading. But Brown lacks Blair’s confidence – and this is now corrosive. “The challenge is primarily psychological,” says a senior minister, “It’s about being confident.” “He simply doesn’t know what to do,” responds a senior backbencher. “There’s no sense of direction whatever. There’s nothing there.”

What can Brown do about this mood? Helpfully meant suggestions abound – be more radical, be more centrist, be yourself, be someone else, get a speechwriter, get a haircut – yet most of these miss the point. Guys of 57 don’t change much. The way people have behaved in the past, a wise minister observed this week, is still the best guide to the way they will behave in the future. A large amount of the wishful-thinking school of commentary on the Labour government’s predicament persistently overlooks this obvious point. There isn’t an Attlee or Roosevelt lurking inside the prime minister. There’s just the same old Gordon with the same old strengths and weaknesses…