Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Cobra II

This morning, on yet another train trip between Cardiff Central and London Paddington for a church work related meeting, I started to read Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor's book Cobra II -The Inside Story of The Invasion and Occupation of Iraq.

It will take me several trips to get through it all. The Economist described the work as 'magisterial' and they're right.

This was on the day when most of the papers were full of Gordon Brown's visit to Camp David to meet with President Bush. The Prime Minister seemed polite but a little distant. That was OK with me as were the implied mutterings about an eventual withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.

If the Populus poll published in The Times today is to be believed, things are looking good for Gordon Brown. He has established a clear 6 point lead over his rival.

Life used to be much better for the PR aware David Cameron who still marks highly for charisma. The summer rains seemed to have washed away much of his early poll popularity. I'm far from convinced that heeding the call from a growing list of ageing Tory grandees to return to a traditional ranting about immigration and Europe would change David Cameron's fortunes.

Public support is a viciously fickle thing I think. Most new leaders have an initial boost the papers say knowingly today. There is, given the passage of time, a certain inevitability about the eventual fading away of all positive approval ratings - even Gordon Brown's approval ratings. People alas just get tired of people.

When that waning does come, will broadcasters reel out once again the unfortunate pictures of Brown being taken for a ride in an open golf buggy by the now terminally unpopular George Bush? I fear so. That falling away will inevitably be accompanied by less than favourable photos and video clips. Papers don't make the news. They just follow it.

I remembered yet again that it was the decision of Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair, to follow Bush to war in Iraq that compelled me then to join millions on the streets of London to proclaim boldly "not in my name" one Saturday afternoon in 2003.

Things after that day of mass protest would never be the same again for the UK's former Prime Minister - even though he would later win a third general election. He won because he wasn’t really challenged by Llanelli's own Michael Howard who did rant about immigration and Europe.

For me as for many others, perceptions of a political leader changed that day in London. They would never be the same again. So far, as for many others according to the polls, Mr Brown has succeeded in holding my attention. How long he keeps my attention and my equivocal approval depends on what happens next.

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