Gordon Brown Reconsidered
William Keegan spoke at the Mile End Group at Queen Mary, University of London, last night about his new book, Saving the World? Gordon Brown Reconsidered. (Pictured, centre, with Jon Davis, left and Steve Richards, right.)
The title of his book is of course number 871 in my series of Questions To Which The Answer Is No.
Brown did make the right decisions to nationalise Northern Rock, to rescue RBS and Lloyds, and to try to coordinate global policy at the G20 in April 2009. And David Cameron and George Osborne did oppose the first, equivocate about the second and carp about the third. But saving the world? The important decisions were made in America, and Cameron and Osborne are only one comparator. The historical “what if” that I regard as relevant is whether Tony Blair as prime minister with Brown, Alan Johnson or David Miliband as Chancellor would have made different and less good decisions. I do not think so.
That apart, Keegan did what I regarded as a pretty good job of reconsidering Brown and reminding us of some of the reasons why his reputation as prime minister is not great.
• He said that Brown became “like a bobby-soxer” (a 1950s term for an impressionable teenager) towards the bankers.
• When Adam Raphael asked a good question about the origin of the hubristic claim to have “ended boom and bust”, saying that he had never heard a satisfactory explanation of how Brown came to use it, Keegan said “there is no satisfactory explanation”.
Steve Richards said that it arose in the early years in opposition when the Brown team were struggling to explain in popular language how their fiscal rules would maintain stability and confidence. Ed Balls said that the purpose was to impose a discipline that would prevent a government allowing the kind of boom that happened under Nigel Lawson, followed by a bust, and “one of them” (we do not know who) said “that’s it: no more boom and bust”.
Keegan records in his book that Brown told him: “I know I’ve got to take the rap.”
• Keegan said he was not sure even Brown understood tax credits.
So perhaps we will have to wait for Brown’s memoir for the full favourable reconsideration. Keegan said that he thought that, apart from the “widely ignored” and dry Beyond the Crash, “there will be some memoirs at some stage”.Tagged in: contemporary history, Gordon Brown, headline, mile end group, qtwtain, william keegan
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