Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gordon Brown's Top Ten Dithers

With the news that Gordon Brown will now not be appearing side by side with David Cameron and Nick Clegg at today’s Speakers Conference, it appears that the Prime Minister has bottled a simple decision once again. This set me thinking. Wouldn't this be a great opportunity to compile one of my famous top ten lists? So here we go. Below are the top ten dithers, bottles and hapless miscalculations Brown has made.

1. The release of al-Megrahi
After the Lockerbie bomber was released from jail on compassionate grounds, the Prime Minister refused to give his opinion on whether it was the right thing to do. Instead, he said that it was a matter for the Scottish Executive and that he couldn’t give an opinion as part of the British Government. But papers later showed that he had given an opinion. But when the UK Government and Scottish Executive published papers relating to the controversy, it was revealed that Bill Rammell, who was then a Foreign Office minister, told the Libyan government that ‘neither the Prime Minister nor the Foreign Secretary would want Mr Megrahi to pass away in prison”

2. An early election
Brown appointed a general election coordinator three days before he became Prime Minister in 2007. He started writing a manifesto within two weeks. He reorganized the Labour Party’s entire structure. He hired an advertising agency and then he got his closest adviser to tell the newspapers that he was on an ‘election footing’ (Ed Balls, Sunday Telegraph, 23 September 2007). Brown refused to dampen speculation. When asked by Andrew Marr in September about an early election, Brown said: ‘whenever the time comes for an election these will be the issues… whenever the time comes for a decision I think the issues, of course, are clear…. that's what I think I will be trying to show the people of Britain this week. Brown bottled it and declared there wouldn’t be an election after all. On 6 October 2007, after months of dithering, Gordon Brown finally announced that there would not be a general election in 2007.

3. His favourite biscuit
When the Prime Minister took part in a webchat with readers of the Mumsnet website, he was asked on 12 separate occasions what his favourite biscuit was. Each time, Brown responded with silence. This failure to answer such a simple question prompted one user to question how much political calculation the Prime Minister needed to provide a response: ‘Maybe he needs to consult with his advisers on what would be the most vote-winning biscuit to admit to liking?’ It was only the next day when Number 10 strategists realised that his failure to answer was attracting negative publicity that an answer was cobbled together. Brown posted the following on his Twitter account: ‘I missed Mumsnet question about biscuits: the answer is absolutely anything with a bit of chocolate on it, but trying v hard to cut down.' See, wasn't so hard, was it? But still no brand.

4. Brown’s favourite food
Brown offered 8 different dinner and types of cuisine when asked what his favourite meal was by a school child. Brown responded to the question by saying: ‘Traditional things like steak and….all that and I love er…spaghetti bolognese, carbonara and all these things…so I like all these er er things…er…er, I like Chinese food, Indian food, I like English food, British food…I like…er…er…French food…I like, I like almost everything.’ When pressed further by his interviewer to give a firm answer, Brown finally replied: ‘I think it would be steak.’

5. Brown’s favourite band
Brown attempted to portray a softer side of himself by professing that he enjoyed listening to the Arctic Monkeys. In an interview with New Woman magazine in May 2006, Brown said that ‘the Arctic Monkeys really wake you up in the morning’. Months later, it emerged that Brown couldn’t actually name any songs by the Arctic Monkeys. When asked by men’s magazine GQ to give the names of any of the songs on the band’s debut album, Brown couldn’t offer a single one. He instead said ‘they are very loud’ and went on to praise Coldplay.

6. Televised leaders’ debate
Brown refused to have a televised leaders’ debate. When asked by David Cameron last year to commit to a televised debate between the main party leaders, Brown refused to do so out of hand: ‘In America they do not have Question Time every week, where we can examine what the different policies of the different parties are’. (Hansard, 27 February 2008, column 1084). Earlier this year, Lord Mandelson said that Brown would be happy to have a televised debate with David Cameron. However, the Prime Minister’s aides rejected such a notion with one saying: ‘Our position has not changed. Voters have the chance to compare the party leaders each week at prime minister's questions’. Brown was going to announce support of televised leaders’ debates in his conference speech before deciding against doing so. According to Nick Robinson, the BBC’s political editor, ‘Drafts of his conference speech yesterday contained a promise to do what no British prime minister has done before: to call for a series of TV debates with his opponents not just during the election campaign but starting now. Once again, however, Gordon Brown has shied away at the final hurdle. An offer to debate will not now be in his conference speech because, I'm told, “he wants to focus on policy not tactics”’. One aide later added more detail of the short notice at which the decision to back out of the decision on leaders’ debates was taken: ‘Do you know when the decision was finally taken by Gordon to drop the commitment to debate Cameron from the speech? At 1:30 in the morning on the day of his speech, that’s when he decided. At that point there’s panic. Quick, who has some substance we can use to fill the hole in the speech? That’s when they quickly re-heat the stuff about putting single mothers in state-care homes, and chuck it in. At… 1… 30… in the morning of the speech.’ (Labour aide, Ian Martin’s WSJ Blog, 4 October 2009). Brown finally decided to announce his support of leaders’ debates 18 months after David Cameron challenged him about it at PMQs. The Prime Minister finally committed to televised debates on 3 October saying: ‘It is right that we set the issues before the British people.…I relish the opportunity of making our case directly to the people of this country.'

7. Meeting the Dalai Lama
After months of dithering over whether to meet the Dalai Lama when he came to Britain, Gordon Brown finally decided that he would meet him. The Prime Minister arranged to meet him at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s residence, rather than his own. It was reported that the decision was taken because Gordon Brown was afraid to upset the Chinese government. But the Prime Minister’s spokesman claimed the decision reflected the fact that the Dalai Lama is a ‘respected spiritual leader’.

8. Welcoming the Olympic Torch
The original route for the Olympic Torch did not include Downing Street. But on 3 April, it was announced that Brown would welcome the torch in Downing Street the following Sunday. While the Prime Minister did welcome the torch into Downing Street on 6 April, in order to look like he understood the position of anti-China protestors he refused to touch or hold the torch. However, he was happy to be pictured with it.

9. Signing of the Lisbon Treaty
In late 2007, Gordon Brown couldn’t decide whether to personally sign the Lisbon Treaty or not. After days of dithering, he finally opted to put his signature on the document, but not to attend the official signing ceremony on 13 December 2007. However, a question still remained over whether he would sign the renamed EU Constitution in public: ‘At first Downing Street suggested that he would miss the entire event. When his attendance was confirmed at the start of the week, it was suggested he would sign the treaty in private. It was only on Tuesday that his officials finally announced he would sign in public’ (The Daily Telegraph, 14 December 2007).

10. Beijing Olympics’ opening ceremony
In March 2008, after Nicolas Sarkozy announced he might boycott the Beijing Olympics’ opening ceremony, Gordon Brown said he would attend the opening and closing ceremonies: “We will not be boycotting the Olympic Games; Britain will be attending the Olympic Games ceremonies” (BBC News Online, 10 April 2008). Days later, he confirmed this saying that Britain would “be present at the Olympic ceremonies and I will certainly be there” (ibid). On 9 April, after two weeks of dithering, Downing Street announced that Brown would not actually attend the opening ceremony, contrary to his earlier position.


In actual fact I could easily have turned this into a Top 30 list. There's just so much material...

45 comments:

Mick Anderson said...

It makes you yearn for the apparent ease of Tony Blair in any political situation....

No, not really. But it is more than time for Mr Brown to shuffle off into the fog.

Dungeekin said...

Give the poor man his due - the choice of a suitable biscuit is a major decision for any head of state, and is not something that should be taken lightly.

There's now a Public Inquiry to be held to fully establish the circumstances behind the PM's baked-goods decision-making.

D

Anonymous said...

Then let's have 30, and why stop there...

Not a sheep said...

The last two: Lisbon Treaty signing and Olympics attendance, say so much about the person who is our PM. Cowardice and evasion are his watchwords.

Anonymous said...

an inability to make a decision is one clear sign of stress.

Bob Piper said...

Wow! The Prime Minister's failure to instantly identify his favourite biscuit, food or pop group...

The good folk of Braknell really don't know what levels of insight they narrowly missed out on do they.

Anonymous said...

You've left out the infamously bad youtube video.

Weygand said...

What about the abolition or otherwise of the 10% tax rate?

Alan Douglas said...

Unlike Nelson, Brown can never decide with which eye to view the "signals" coming in from all quarters.

Dithering raised to the level of, but only as a substitute for, statemanship. Sad.

Alan Douglas

Anonymous said...

I've not come across 3 before. It's brilliant. A Prime Minister who is unable to work out what sort of biscuit he likes best. Or to make something up on the spot. Or even to say "I'm not fussed about biscuits".

There are times when he's barely human.

The Boiling Frog said...

Another example of Brown dithering today according to Paul Waugh.

http://waugh.standard.co.uk/

Brown was due to appear before the Speaker's Conference with Cameron and Clegg and has bottled it.

The question of how Brown is going to cope during an election campaign doesn't even bear thinking about

Steve Horgan said...

You could also add his extended delay in responding to the expenses revelations when the story first broke. One forms the opinion of a man who sticks his head under a pillow and hopes that the world will go away.

joshuachambers said...

Iain, I've been compelled to criticise part of your post: http://wp.me/ptXhp-do

I'm not sure there's proof that Brown did bottle this decision.

tory boys never grow up said...

And what was that about not doing negative politics on your Bracknell website.

Anonymous said...

:-)How colonial and how quaint ....you call the Scottish Government the Scottish Executive... no doubt England still play cricket against Ceylon :-)...Pimms please butler

Osama the Nazarene said...

Northern Rock. He dithered for 5 months before taking a decision about the future of this pathetic institution.

Far more serious than favourite food, band or biscuit from a supposedly first-rate Chancellor of the Exchequer!

John Moss said...

And from June, his top ten economic blunders - pretty much his top ten economic policies!

http://timesbusiness.typepad.com/money_weblog/2009/06/gordons-10-worst-financial-gaffs.html

Anonymous said...

Does 10+ years of backstabbing and undermining Tony Blair, rather than challenging him outright for the leadership, count as a dither?

Anonymous said...

Nice list, but it all really stems from the fact that Brown has no character and no soul.

For him, everything is a political calculation, and when faced with a decision with an uncertain political outcome, he can't calculate and ends up dithering.

The biscuit question should be easy: "I used to like Abbey Crunch, but they're sadly no longer made, so I make do with Milk Chocolate Hob Nobs."

He doesn't get it that there's no point in telling the electorate what they want to hear, because they all want to hear something different. Better to tell them what you think and feel, and be damned or blesséd for it.

JBW said...

Perhaps there ought to be a prize for whoever completes the other 20!

jake said...

Magnificent list. Bicciegate had completely passed me by.

Can you imagine if he was PM in WW2?

"We shall commission a full feasibility study into the logistics of beach-centric organised movement as a stimulant to the overall war effort in co-ordination with the global taskforce, knowing that global problems require global solutions, and we are leading the world in the arena of defeating Hitler because our strategy is very much at the forefront of the very grave crisis that threatens us with utmost seriousness at this point in time, and we know that, as President Roosevelt has said, this is the right thing to do for our times and our country in this world in which we now live."

Stringy said...

Too true, you could probably get to 100... easily

Boo said...

Well there was the UN vote on isreal last week, where his government could not even manage to abstain let alone chose a side

Nick said...

Although I think Brown is the worst PM since records began I'm afraid you are doing him a disservice in repeating the myth that Brown claimed to listen to the Arctic Monkeys.

In an interview for New Woman magazine he was asked whether he preferred the Arctic Monkeys or James Blunt. Brown's answer was that he actually liked Coldplay but that the Arctic Monkeys would be loud enough "to get you up in the morning."

Tories get understandably annoyed when Thatcher's quote about "no such thing as society" is taken out of context. Please extend the same courtesy to Brown.

Bryan S said...

I am surprised Gordon hasn't commented on the Jan Moir storm in an apartment. He usually dowes jump on any bandwaggon that comes along. My wife buys the mail and after hearing of the fuss I read the piece and found it unremarkable and innofensive. I then gave it to my 40 year old gay son who like me thought it raised some entirely reasonable questions about Saint Stephen and his husband.

Victor, NW Kent said...

I was working but had the "conference" on in the background. I heard Brown droning on about how the Labour party would ensure that almost all of its candidates would be either a]Women 2]From ethnic minorities c]Disabled.

I passed the TV and there was a shot of a section of the committee, about 5 or 6 of them. All were either women or from ethnic minorities or both. So, I now knew he was speaking to.

At that moment he was talking about opening the House for civil partnerships to be performed there. Obviously important when the discussion was about reforms in Parliament and in politics.

I am not sure how this is a conference as it really seemed to be a party political broadcast.

I switched off before the other two leaders came on to tell us what their plans were to exclude a] Able-bodied people b] Heterosexuals c] Men d] Persons who appear to be ethnically Caucasian.

It really is small wonder that extremists like Nick Griffin gain a following or that commonsense parties like the English Democrats have some appeal.

I had hoped that we might move to a time when the best candidate was elected, preferably one who had some local connections. I see that is impossible as we become more and more politically correct. A meritocracy is beyond our grasp.

Plenty said...

Yes, there's so much to go on.

What about him cowardly not sacking Darling, and bringing his mate Balls into the Treasury...Oh, there's one there already isn't there?....

Alan Douglas said...

Any electorate would benefit more from Iain Dale's gentle caring for the people he meets and deals with, compared to Brown's (or Piper's) concentration ont the really important matters of state, which are to abrogate all money, power and responsibility to their insider elite.

Piper, and Brown. As you are so certain of your rightness, PLEASE give us mere fodder a chance to agree with you in a GE, NOW.

Alan Douglas

Martin said...

Shouldn't the non sacking of Darling be in the top 10? After all he'd leaked it to Toenails at the BBC that Darling was dead man walking.

Bill Quango MP said...

The Prime minister's crackers
and other politician's biscuit choices

Dave H said...

There was also the press conference where he refused to express his support for Harriet Harman over secret donations.

He repeatedly ducked the question so obviously that the press were beginning to snigger at him when they asked it.

Later No 10 issued a statement indicating she had the PM's full support.

Anonymous said...

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/more_sport/article6882415.ece

At least he's finally made up his mind on this one. No such dithering where Susan Boyle was concerned - she got two phone calls.

Stephen Gash said...

I've never met Gordon Brown.

Nevertheless I hate his stinking guts.

I don't know if this constitutes a hate crime under the Lisbon Treaty, but it wouldn't surprise me if it did.

Javelin said...

Which nostril to pick "left, right no left again" ...

... now where shall I wipe it "tie, inside jacket, no tie again. "

Cardinal del Monte said...

I've just listened to Brown on BBC News 24 talking about Afghanistan. For most of the interview his face looked like a tragic mask, but he kept momentarily breaking into his weird grin. This is a man in a state of intolerable stress. How will he cope with a general election? In 2005, Tony Blair chose to hide away during the campaign in order to avoid anti-war protestors, but he had a lead in the polls.

Coming: Brown --- The Crack-up?

JMB said...

Perhaps Broon had heard the warnings about biscuit safety from the British Biscuit Advisory Board so was reluctant to specify which biscuit until completing the Risk Assessment.

http://www.bbab.org.uk/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1221667/Dunkin-danger-Councils-admit-specific-Health-Safety-rules-eating-biscuits-answering-spoof-survey.html

Anonymous said...

In neither of the quotes you give from the PM about the Olympics does he say he will go, he says "Britain will be represented" at both ceremonies.

So how was it "contrary to his earlier position" when he announced that he, personally, would not be going?

Why the need to make things up, Iain?

Quietzapple said...

Gordon has made all the necessary decisions promptly, to the chagrin of his political opponents most usually.

History will laugh up its sleeve at many tories who now affect so many emotions.

I hope he has the Balls to sort the Tory Party after the next election, for the legal situation re such a division will be quite unclear, and the law may not provide for the protection of Tory members' interests.

The Grim Reaper said...

Can we please have a follow-up article to this called "Top 100 Stupid Things That Gordon Brown Has Ever Done"?

David in Rome said...

Good to see you are still alive Q, hope you are keeping well.

Valiantly defending the indefensible.

Was his decision on Northern Rock prompt? Or is 5 months not 5 months in Liebour land?

Leaving it late only caused the problem to become greater and to cost more.

Still what does that matter when you can leave the debts to our children and grandchildren to sort out.

Today it was reported that the National Debt is now the greatest it has been since records started in 1946.

So much for making the necessary decisions promptly...

John Chaytor said...

"Does 10+ years of backstabbing and undermining Tony Blair, rather than challenging him outright for the leadership, count as a dither?"

I agree with what anonymous said. This is the heart of the character of the 'man'.

If Brown had the courage to resign just before the Iraq war (As Robin Cook did), the UK would not have illegally invaded Iraq and he would have been PM by the end of the week.

This either shows that he has no back-bone or he agreed with the illegal invasion of a sovereign nation contrary to all international laws.

Either way. He does not get my vote.

Anonymous said...

Iain what about his number one mistake :- "No more boom and bust!"?

I also think something like the Gurkhas, and then 10 p tax muck up would be on the top 10.

You re right about the not calling of the election though. That has echoes of Callaghan not calling the election in 1978(which he possibly would have won), and I think Brown might have won the election then if he called it.

Thatsnews said...

"They are very loud!"

Sounds like some dim-witted uncle trying to 'get down with the kids.'

Anonymous said...

Brown DID end 'Boom and Bust'.

It's just 'Bust' from now ...

Anonymous said...

Gordon has spent enormous amounts of taxpayers' money on cynical and incompetent spin doctors. I used to vote Labour, but Burdett, McBride and their ilk have put me right off.