Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Brown Interview

Gordon Brown, in his interview with Andrew Marr, said that Blair should be given “discretion” to make the decision about his departure “in his own way”. This seems to imply that Brown has settled for the timetable Blair has set out: resignation in May next year, in time for a new Leader to be in place for the autumn conference. I suspect however that this is dependent on the Blairites observing a ceasefire, and that is unlikely. Brown added the rider that he is confident that Blair will make the decision “in the interests of the party and the country”, which leaves the option of an earlier departure open. Brown’s denial of involvement in a plot, and ignorance of any knowledge of the various letters calling for Blair to go (he claims that if he had known he would have called it “ill-advised”), and his claim that when he met Blair last week there was “no argument at all”, are plainly nonsense. But what else could he say? The rules of political discourse do not permit a politician of Brown’s seniority to be candid about such things. He fell short of promising Reid, Miliband and Clarke Cabinet positions, but he did say they “should be considered for high office”. He seemed to be offering a deal to Blairite’s who accept his succession: he spoke a lot about "team-work" and said he wants an “inclusive party of all the talents”. He also said that he would “welcome” a Leadership election (he is confident, I think, that he can easily beat Milburn or Reid). Marr took up the theme of how a Brown premiership would differ from a Blair premiership. On what Marr called the “endless march to privatisation” Brown’s response was to remind him that “I introduced PFI…”, and to add that “reform will continue” and “in some cases it has to intensify”. Not much difference there then. Asked if we could expect “ultra-Blairism with a Scottish accent” Brown collapsed into what sounded like a lot of “third way” rhetoric (he favours a “new individualism” together with a “sense of civil duty”. Yeah, sure). There was little evidence of a change of direction on Iraq or the relationship with the USA, although he sounded a little cooler about Bush. He referred to child poverty (“every child should have the best start in life”) but at a level of generality which left it wholly unclear what he proposes to do about it. In the studio William Hague and Chris Patten were very effective in putting the boot in. Patten said he could detect no deviations from Blairism (“he hasn’t made clear any difference at all”) and threw in a wonderful jibe at Blair’s “Walter Mitty tour of the Middle East”. Patten also raised the “Scottish question” which is a serious problem for Brown (and Reid) and one which the Tories are determined to exploit at the next election, if Brown becomes Leader. On Radio 5 it is reported that Tom Watson visited Brown on the evening before the letter was circulated. Both – risibly - say they didn’t discuss it. On their account Watson brought a present for Brown’s baby, and then they both spent an hour playing with the baby (I suspect we are going to hear and see a lot more of this baby, who featured in the Brown interview several times). Overall: Brown hopes to quieten things down, but now we know that Blair is going soon the uber-Blairites will be searching for a candidate to stop Brown and will do what they can to undermine him; although others will jump ship. Finally, Patten raised an interesting question: what is Mandelson up to? I think we can expect a “dirty tricks” campaign designed to damage Brown over the next few months. The Brownites will retaliate with pressure for an earlier departure. It won't go away.


Blogger Robert Jackman said...

Quite a dissapointing interview I agree. Brown appeared proud of his involvement with PFI (so he won't be too popular at the TUC meeting either) and hinted that such 'market mimmicking' would continue.
He also raised the 'Britishness' question again and spoke about renewing a sense of British citizenship - perhaps this will work as a shield against attacks on the whole 'Scottish' thing.
Speaking of British citizenship, it reminds me of a depressing comment a Conservative made to me on a radio show once - 'there is no such thing as a 'British citizen'; we are all subjects, subjects of the queen, and I am proud to be a subject'.
Some people eh?
RE: The Google Blog thing - I seem to come up when one searches for my name but for anything I've blogged about. I found your blog by searching for 'Blair Brown leadership left' or something, but even when I type in the title of my latest entry, it does not come up.
Any idea why?

3:56 pm  
Blogger politaholic said...

Sorry Robert. Can't help you with the Google thing. I've only been blogging since last March and I'm still learning. Hope you manage to sort it out.

7:52 am  

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