I’d heard it said that Tony Blair was a presidential Prime Minister, but I didn’t realise what it meant until today. In one aspect, anyway.
At times of heightened emotion it seemed natural that TB would make a statement – he was the face of the government and, it seems reasonable to say, the country. On 9/11, the death of Princess Diana, the success of the Olympic bids, or any kind of national problem, Tony Blair was always there, expressing the appropriate emotions. Whether or not they agreed with him politically, I think most people came to expect this. For lack of a better word, TB was a spiritual leader as much as a political one.
Today I heard someone claim Gordon Brown will be far less of a media Prime Minister. He won’t make such statements. He’ll run the country politically, but won’t speak for the country in quite the same way.
I find this a strange concept. To me that kind of spiritual leadership seems modern: the way of the future; a government without that quality seems to be lacking something. Maybe I feel this way because it was happening during my formative years, or possibly it’s the influence of US tv. I’m very possibly wrong, and a faceless government won’t seem as different as I anticipate.
But the media are used to having a go-to guy. So, at least a little, is the country. If it isn’t Gordon Brown, who’s the obvious man to turn to? Who in modern politics has the necessary charisma and media savvy? David Miliband, possibly. But also David Cameron. Which is worrying.