Gordon Brown: Labour’s Samson

John Rentoul

bat10 300x300 Gordon Brown: Labours SamsonMore history of the recent past from Anthony Seldon and Guy Lodge in today’s Daily Mail, extracting the revised edition of their Brown At 10.

Three things struck me. One was the first assertion as fact, although in the book I suspect the footnote will be “private information”, that Gordon Brown personally put Jack Dromey up to his television interview in which he said that, as Labour Treasurer, he knew nothing about the secret loans that financed the 2005 election campaign. That helped to trigger the Metropolitan Police inquiry into the fanciful allegation that Tony Blair offered peerages in return for loans, which was never going to end in charges but which weakened Blair greatly.

Brown personally phoned Cabinet colleague Harriet Harman, who also happened to be wife of Jack Dromey, the Labour Party treasurer. Boldly, he instructed her to tell Dromey to make a speech advocating the ‘cleaning up’ of Labour’s funding, knowing that this would profoundly embarrass Blair.

The second is the assertion, again as fact, that Ed Balls “pressed the button” on the coup of September 2006, which forced Blair to set a 12-month time limit on his premiership:*

In the words of one of Brown’s inner team: ‘Ed concluded that Gordon had left it too late. If he didn’t press the button himself, nothing was going to happen.’ So Balls spoke to Tom Watson, the Brownite MP, and hatched a plot for a series of letters to be written by Labour MPs calling on Blair to stand down. Brown had full knowledge of the plan, though wasn’t told the exact timings.

But when Balls walked into his room, brandishing Tom Watson’s letter to Blair, Brown was shocked. ‘F****** hell, are you sure that’s not going too far?’ he asked.

‘It’s too late,’ was Balls’s cold reply.

Finally, it is worth noting, although I do not really agree with such pop psychology, the authors’ considered verdict on Brown’s character:

In our view, Gordon Brown is the most damaged personality to have become chancellor or prime minister since World War II.

I would put it more simply: wholly unsuited to public office.

*Update: A friend points out that this is not entirely new. It is in The End of the Party by Andrew Rawnsley, p391, sourced to “Brown inner circle”: “The coup was not run by Gordon. It was run by Ed. Gordon was almost horrified when he realised how far it had gone.”

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  • whosaysso

    Let them call each other to account – but on the basis of what they do, not who they are.

    Brown was a principled man. Blair was pragmatic. Both had the interests of the country at heart, not just the small group of the people in their in-crowd. No-one is perfect and politics is about change. Exposing the workings of power is interesting, but different games are played by different rules.

  • Suarez from the car park…

    there’s a lot they didn’t get right, that’s govt for you (PFI?), but the banking deregulation firstly in the US set an inevitable path of debt based bubbles founded on the unregulated derivatives market.

    Check the tulletprebon site for its report on the UK economy.  They show the deficits and surpluses run over the last couple of decades aswell as national debt.

    [Early nineties the govt expected the private sector to step in for recovery.  It didn't and lead to Clarke running 8%gdp deficits in the mid nineties to try and buy the election.]

    What’s been so damaging in my view is the misallocation of capital that instead of going into industry, like Germany, went full scale into a housing ponzi scheme with yoy private sector deficits running at 9%gdp.  The BofE should have done something about it or King should have resigned warning of this hot money.

    The lasting effects of that is what we have to deal with as a country.  We’re incurring debt now because we don’t export to the parts of the world that are growing – something we gave up on back in the eighties when it was decided industrial policy was un-necessary and the market would decide, while we stacked the cards in favour of debt and short-termism.  

    Some of that was inevitable, but Germany took a very different path.  Today there’s no signs of us learning those lessons and every sign that we will only support the finance industry whatever it takes.

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