Home TA Online 2010 TA Online All is not lost, Gordon Brown: Look East beyond India, think ‘kataks’

All is not lost, Gordon Brown: Look East beyond India, think ‘kataks’

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If only British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had looked east, he wouldn’t be in this pickle. Instead, he could have picked up a few valuable pointers from the post-colonials on how not to lose a general election, observes Francis Loh, tongue-in-cheek. 


Imagine, Labour has been in power for 13 years.  Yet, it seems that they have not taken ‘the necessary steps’ to ensure that they can remain in power for another 13. Serves Gordon Brown right that his Labour Party has lost so many seats, and that his country has ended up with a ‘hung parliament’. The problem with people like Brown – come to think of it, the Brits in general – is that they think that their Westminster system of democracy is the ‘mother of all parliamentary democracies’. So they don’t bother to learn from others.

If only Brown had a ‘Look East, beyond India’ policy – more East than India, I mean – he would have learnt a thing or two about how to ensure that the incumbent always wins elections. For starters, hasn’t Brown  heard of the 3 Ms – Media, Money and Machinery? And if he has, doesn’t he know how to use the 3 Ms to overwhelm the opposition during elections?

Apparently, not! I mean, why did he allow the Opposition to have such easy access to the mass media? Was it really necessary to hold a series of debates about critical issues of the day over prime-time TV and allow his challengers the opportunity to perform better than he did?  Worse, imagine allowing the major newspapers to endorse the Opposition on the eve of the elections! Has it ever occurred to Brown that these could all have been prevented if his party had earlier acquired ownership and control of the major newspapers! Like in the East, beyond  India.

There is no need to elaborate about the mistakes re: the electoral campaign except to stress that elections should not be prolonged affairs because it can focus too much attention on politics and interrupt the development process. Really, Mr Brown, there was no need to announce the election date almost a month ahead of time and allow campaigning  to go on … and on … and on.  Indeed, with that early notice given, the Opposition actually ended up having more than enough time to get their party machinery going. The element of surprise lost, your party’s machinery had no advantage over those of your challengers.  In fact, their parties even raised as much Money as yours did. No wonder you lost to the Conservatives. If only you were familiar with our 3 Ms.

But all is not yet lost, Mr Brown.  Now that the Conservatives and Lib-Dems are so busy playing coy with each other, you could rush to Buckingham Palace and attempt to get the Queen to swear you in. In 1985, a defeated leader from the ruling coalition in a Malaysian state almost pulled off what we call a ‘palace coup’. Yeah, the Queen might not cooperate. And the police have too cooperate too.

Or, perhaps, you could try this – assuming you do have bull frogs (we call them ‘kataks’) in the UK too? Why not get some of the newly elected opposition MPs to leap-frog or hop over to your side? It’s okay too if they want to announce that they are ‘independents’ (Labour-friendly, of course). How to do this? Quite easy really. We do it all the time. Offer them cabinet positions or directorships in statutory bodies (yeah, not too many of those GLCs left – what with privatisation), or perhaps an OBE, MBE or knighthood?

If only Brown would come down from his high horse, look East beyond India, and he may just pick up a few tips from his postcolonials.

Dr Francis Loh teaches Malaysian and Southeast Asian Politics, not British Politics

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