One Year On: The Decline and Fall of Gordon Brown

S Kettell, Peter Kerr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)


The first 12 months of Gordon Brown's tenure as prime minister have witnessed an unprecedented collapse in his political fortunes. Examining the reasons for this decline, this paper sets out to achieve three reasonably modest ambitions. Firstly, the principal aim is to provide a detailed summary of Brown's record throughout his first year at the helm. Secondly, utilising evidence drawn from poll data and media commentaries during the period June 2007-June 2008, it argues that Brown's problems cannot be explained by the type of factors that normally help elucidate government unpopularity, such as economic instability, party disunity, voter weariness, or indeed, significant policy failure. Thirdly, the paper sets out to suggest, in a manner which is candidly reflective rather than theoretically rigorous, that Brown's unpopularity owes more to his failure to measure up on two key aspects of contemporary political leadership in Britain; namely, what we term here as the twin values of 'Westminsterism' and 'modernality'. Whereas the former, stemming from the historically constructed confines of the Westminster Model, demands strong, decisive, and resolute decision making; the latter, which has its roots in the more recent discourse of party modernisation, demands the need for a media-savvy, 'celebrity' persona and a ceaseless drive for modernisation. British Politics (2008) 3, 490-510. doi:10.1057/bp.2008.26
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-510
Number of pages21
JournalBritish Politics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2008


  • Westminsterism
  • Gordon Brown
  • modernality
  • New Labour


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