Gordon Brown’s leadership is under increasing pressure from his own party. Unlike in the US, a leader can be kicked out mid-term here in the UK if the party loses confidence in him (though this has not happened in modern times.) There is in theory a clear advantage in that, but in practice the party’s confidence in the leader is based on the opinion polls rather than the leader’s actual competence.
Gordon Brown is a good case in point. As the eminently reasonable and uncharismatic John Major (Tory PM for most of the nineties) commented recently, Gordon Brown had an undeservedly high reputation during his 10 years as Chancellor (the Minister for Money) and now has an undeservedly low reputation as Labour PM. As Chancellor, Gordon Brown presided over a long period of sustained growth that was occurring anyway in the whole western world. His achievement was not to get in the way of that, while also managing to shunt considerable extra funds into the public services. This was no mean feat considering UK political history, where you would alternately get the Tories trashing the public services and Labour trashing the economy. All the same, what he did was in itself not too difficult in the circumstances. As a shapeshifting 12th House Pisces, he projected an image of prudence and competence, of being the ‘Iron Chancellor’.
This image held for 10 years, and then he tried the same trick when he entered No 10 in June 2007. For the first few months he was the strong man, dealing with all the crises that came his way: flooding, foot and mouth, terrorist attacks. And then it all quickly evaporated last autumn in the wake of an election that never happened.
Since then Labour has been firmly behind the Tories in the opinion polls, much as they had been in the final period of Tony Blair’s premiership. This is all being blamed on Gordon Brown. This is partly inevitable as we approach the end of a political cycle. The public wants something new. It’s as simple as that. (And Tory leader David Cameron, as pretend Prime Minister who pretends to ride a bicycle, will successfully pretend to provide something new.) But it is also due to Brown's personality.
In terms of what are the right decisions to make, Gordon Brown is not incompetent. Because he was so dominant as Chancellor, it is hard to take the current Chancellor, Alistair Darling, seriously. It is Brown who is in charge. The bank Northern Rock threatened to go bust late last year as incidental fall-out from the emerging credit crunch. The situation was saved, there was no domino effect onto other banks, Northern Rock was eventually nationalised (the shareholders lost all their money) and it wouldn’t surprise me if the government eventually sells it at a tidy profit. So a difficult situation was managed.
I don’t think people always realise how difficult it is to govern a country. In the 1960s, the UK managed to stay out of Vietnam, despite American pressure. This was very tricky to manage, and the government was criticised for not condemning America. But as the PM Harold Wilson said at the time, you don’t knee your major creditor in the balls! Denis Healey, the Defence Secretary, got called ‘Hitler Healey’ on the student campuses at the time for not condemning the US. What the students didn’t realise was what had gone into staying out of that war, and of course the government couldn’t say.
Back to Gordon Brown. It is not enough just to be reasonably competent. It is just as important in politics to be seen to lead, to communicate that you are in charge. This is not just cynicism: an effective leader needs to be able to communicate in whatever sphere, it makes all the difference to how people feel. This is not just about show, about image – people eventually see through that. Leadership is not just about making the ‘right’ decisions, which is what Brown always falls back upon. It is about connecting with people and carrying people. And this is what Brown cannot do.
As astrologers we are big on beginnings. And in Brown’s first speech as PM he was half hidden behind an autocue. This says it all. He is hidden, and he doesn’t have much of a clue about connecting and about political nous. He doesn’t have much idea about how things look to others, and that is important wherever you are. You have to take into account the impression you create, while not being determined by it. (I find this one hard: it’s THEIR problem I’ll announce, just look at what I’m actually saying, not what you think I’m saying.) Of course politicians often go much further than this and concentrate too much on the impression they want to create.
Click to Enlarge
Gordon Brown, as I have said before, is the Invisible Man who has a deep need to be leader: Sun in 12th House Pisces and Moon conjunct Pluto in Leo. It’s not a promising combination. I think he was much better off as Chancellor, where he could be eminent (Leo) while remaining behind the scenes (Pisces/12th House).
What has been really doing it for him are the bye-elections. When an MP dies – or gets caught having a mistress (the worst cardinal sin these days) – there is a bye election. Generally a government doesn’t fare well in these. But Labour has been doing particularly badly lately. The last one was just a couple of weeks ago, and a huge Labour majority was overturned in favour of the Scottish Nationalist Party. The grumblings have been growing louder at each successive defeat, and the recent one was marked by an extraordinary article in a major newspaper by David Miliband, the youthful Foreign Secretary, who set out a new vision for Labour, but without mentioning Gordon Brown. It is a sign of Gordon Brown’s weakness that Miliband could get away with this without being sacked.
Today there has been the news of another Labour MP’s death, again in Scotland, and with a 10,000 majority at the last election. There is no reason to suppose that this could not be overturned: at the last bye-election, Labour were defending a 13,000 majority and still lost. The next step, if this election is lost, would appear to be an actual leadership challenge to Brown.
Natally Brown has Chiron at 1 Capricorn conjunct MC at 5 Capricorn. Tony Blair, his predecessor and great rival, also has a Chiron-MC conjunction in Capricorn. Both have damaged (Chiron) their legacy (MC/Capricorn) of their own volition. Blair over Iraq (during his Chiron return) and Brown through forcing the issue to become PM when he was never suited to it (now he has transiting Pluto conjoining his natal Chiron/MC).
You can sometimes ignore bye-elections (though increasingly less so with Brown), but you can’t ignore the local elections, and Brown took a real hammering in late April (see my post at the time The Tragic Mr Brown.) This threw up a lot of questioning about his leadership, and at the time Pluto was almost exactly conjunct his natal Chiron.
In a few weeks time we will have the next bye-election. Pluto will not be conjunct Brown’s Chiron, but he will be stationing in late Sag, which is just as ominous, a planet being more powerful when it is standing still. Even if there is not a leadership challenge, the circumstances and the astrology combined would seem to indicate a further loss of Brown’s authority within the Labour Party.