UK Politics

Brown fails Best test

The clatter against Gordon Brown is loud in The Times this morning with David Aaronovitch and Martin Samuel both firing out against the Chancellor.

Being a football writer Samuel, who admits to being no fan of the prime minister, is unable to resist a little sporting metaphor. He has Brown as a Kevin Keegan to Tony Blair’s George Best. All workman like hard graft without true flair or natural talent.

Best might have said that Keegan was not fit to lick his bootlaces, but Brown is not fit to “lace Blair’s dodgy dossiers”.

“Whatever credence Brown gains as a chancellor, he surrenders as a vote-winner. He has always struggled to make a connection with the wider public and would therefore have been out of office years ago, just as he may never get to win an election as Labour leader. He would not have survived a catastrophe such as the Iraq war, for instance. The difference between Keegan and Best was the gulf that exists between hard graft and genius; the difference between Blair and Brown is that, politically, Blair is a natural, too. You don’t have to like his policies to understand that; you just have to watch him in action.”

He goes on to make a good point in reminding everyone exactly what new Labour is. Ask any marketing man: Blair is new Labour.

That being true exactly what is Gordon Brown and do we actually want it?

Aaronovitch previously something of a Brown supporter seems to have had it as well. The whole Tom Watson baby gift and attempted party coup has done it for him.

He echoes Charles Clarke’s question and asks why when the Watson letter was sent didn’t Brown, as prime minister in waiting, condemn it from the outset. He also like a lot of people declares himself as a Milibandite – although he teases a little by not saying which one (no prizes for guessing which he means – David Miliband).

“That’s what I have wondered all week. And in even wondering it, I sense the answer. I sense it in the knowledge that this article will be labelled as part of a Blairite attack on the Chancellor by his acolytes (many of whose devotions have been, to be fair, unsought) in the press and the Labour Party.

“They are, whether they know it or not, a terrible bunch of unimaginative bullies. In any case I am, I think, a Milibandite — partly because it sounds like something from the Cretaceous period, and partly because there are two Milibands, and that gives me wriggle room.”

He also puts his finger on something about the whole double dealing Brown affair has brought to the surface, which is the fact that Brown is owed nothing, but acts like a man who is owed the very world. The ungracious, and ungrateful, brooding act is getting a little too much. Maybe a leadership battle and a defeat will see him get what he is actually entitled to: a nice retirement home in Scotland.

“Mr Brown has, for some time now, seemed to regard that he is not Prime Minister but only Chancellor, as the product of an unfairness. He feels that he has a grievance that he is somehow entitled to have sorted out. And it just isn’t true. He is entitled to nothing.

Until last Tuesday I put myself undeviating in the camp of those who saw Mr Brown as the inevitable and welcome successor to Mr Blair. But like Tom Watson and his baby clothes, something — a shadow of a doubt — came visiting last week. And, like Tom Watson, it’s something I wish had stayed away.”