I'm not as huge a fan of Gordon Brown as Kendra is. At least I've never written a song about him, and don't expect to in the foreseeable future. But I've always thought he was a good Chancellor, and might, if he can restrain his Old Labour impulses (and, more importantly, those of the unreconstructed awkward squad within his own party), make a pretty decent Prime Minister.
But with the installation of David Cameron as Conservative Party leader, Gordon may be getting nervous about the prospect of ever getting his feet under the table at Number 10. He's been doing his best to ease Tony Blair toward the door, but Blair is turning out to be like one of those party guests who won't take a hint, who's merrily chattering away and fixing himself another drink even after his despairing hosts have given up making pointed remarks about the lateness of the hour, got themselves into their pyjamas, and taken themselves off to bed.
Then again, I'm not as tired of Blair as most people I know are, and don't mind if he sticks around for a couple more years before handing things over to Brown, provided he doesn't run the Labour Party into the ground in the process. Cameron's accession makes it less likely that Blair's increasingly shaky hold on power will survive long enough to be of much value to Brown; his most telling blow during his first session of Prime Minister's Questions came when he gestured across the box at the visibly older and more care-worn Blair and said condescendingly, "He was the future... once." The sickly grin on Blair's face made the point more eloquently than anything Cameron could have added.
It's early days, of course, but it looks as though the Conservatives have finally managed to learn a lesson from the way the Blair-Brown coalition has dominated British politics for the past decade. Get someone young, energetic and reasonably good-looking, speak in vague but upbeat terms about Britain's glowing future and the tired, played-out nature of your opponents, and bingo, you're on your way. As recently as this year, pundits were writing off the Conservatives as a spent force and forecasting a succession of Labour governments far into the future, but the Labour Party increasingly looks like returning to the fractious ways of its past, a weakness which Cameron brilliantly and mercilessly exploited.
Pointing out that Blair can no longer count on enough votes from his own party to pass his more centrist proposals, Cameron offered Conservative votes to make up the difference. This had the dual effect of appealing to a public sick of political parties opposing each other for the sake of opposition, and of driving a wedge between Blair and the 50 or 60 diehards who, given the opportunity, would take Labour in a time machine back to the days when Britain could have traded its EU membership for a place among the "republics" of the old Soviet Union.
Brown's strongest suit is the economy: if he can keep it on an even keel while Blair manages to avoid a confidence vote in which there might be enough Labour rebels to unseat him, he might yet have his turn as Prime Minister. But that economy looks suspiciously like it’s being financed the same way British consumers are managing their own affairs: atop an ever-increasing mountain of credit card debt.
That being said, is there really much difference between Cameron and Blair? No, and that's just the point: by choosing a non-ideological leader who can't be pinned down as standing for much of anything, the Conservatives may have finally found the secret to out-Blairing Blair. And the glib young (just 39) Cameron could put a more than passing frown on Brown's face as well.