Put on your tin hats. You can expect there to be a lot of flak flying over the question of character. The anti bullying charity will be put under media pressure to produce evidence or back down. Supporters of Gordon Brown will claim he is much misunderstood. There will be lots of heat but probably not much extra light as the various sides slug it out in the studios.
To me the more important question than the question of character is the question of judgement. One person’s sterling virtue seen in a leader can be another person’s weakness or undesirable trait. A character people love one day – like the widespread appreciation of Mr Blair in 1997 – can become a very different set of feelings for many ten years later. The change of mood is often affecrted by judgements or decisions leading figures make. Mr Blair’s Iraqi war changed the way people saw him. Mr Woods, the golfer, is seen differently today than a year ago because people have learnt something more about how he lived his life.
In the case of a Prime Minister the thing that matters most to most of us is what judgements he comes to, what decisions he takes that shape our country’s destiny. The public can live with a PM who turns most normal Parliamentary questions into an invitation to try to put down political opponents, if all the main calls he is making are correct. If he gets it wrong it grates more that he does not try to answer. The public can live with a man who either keeps himself to himself, or is very open about his background and family life – if he is getting the decisions right it doesn’t matter much which of the two approaches he adopts.Inconsistency on these issues can annoy if the country is not performing well.
So the questions to ask about our current PM remain the same today as before the current story about relations in Number 10. They include
1. Why did he tax pension funds, and why are so few private sector funds now open for new members?
2. Why did he sell gold at the bottom of the market?
3. Why did he get so little improved service for all the billions he gave to public services in the last ten years?
4. Why did he allow such a huge build up of public debt before the Crunch?
5. Why did he approve the Basel bank regulations and the decisions of his new Regulator, which encouraged banks to overextend their balance sheets?
6. Why has he presided over a higher rate of inflation than target on average? Why did he change the inflation target to CPI from the commonly used RPI?
7. Why did he put so much money at risk in state supported banks, when there were cheaper options available to get us through the crisis?
8. Why has he allowed large banking bonuses to be paid by state subsidised banks?
9. Why has the balance of payments been so weak on his watch?
10. Why has manufacturing output fallen under Labour? Why has the UK economy grown so little since 1997?
11. Why did the UK economy stay in recession for longer than other major economies , and why is it so far making such a weak recovery, if all the actions the PM took were right?