Being himself is the last thing Brown needs to do. Everything that has gone right for Brown since he became Prime Minister has been because he has behaved out of character. Everything that has gone wrong has been the result of his reverting to type.
Brown's indecision – first he wasn't going to Lisbon, then he was – fits into a pattern. The other episode that damaged his reputation was the dithering over an election. As we look back over Brown's tribulations over the past 10 weeks, most of them were not his fault: Northern Rock, the lost discs, illegal immigrants cleared to work as security guards. But the Lisbon hokey-cokey and the loss of nerve over the election were down to him. They happened because he behaved in the way that those with negative experiences of working with him feared and expected.
Contrast those disasters with Brown's successes. When he confounded the expectations of his character and brought Conservatives – up to and including Baroness Thatcher – into his Downing Street parlour. When he kept able Blairite ministers John Hutton and Lord Adonis in his Government – and stepped up the academies programme in a way that made it (slightly) more palatable to its critics. When he turned out to be pleasantly matter-of-fact about matters as diverse as terrorism and supercasinos – subjects on which he had few known opinions.
Yet the successes have been few and mostly they have been just as much presentational as the failures. All the evidence suggests that the openness of Brown's first few weeks as Prime Minister were a token effort to do what he knew he had to do, but which he found impossible to keep up. One anonymous cabinet minister's comment has been widely retold by MPs who want Brown to succeed but fear the worst: "It's just like the invasion of Iraq: they had no plan for what would happen after the old regime was toppled."
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Brown Must Avoid Being Himself
I have just started reading Tom Bower's biography of Gordon Brown. He paints a picture of a rude, obsessed, deeply psychotic man who is unfit to hold political office. In today's Independent John Rentoul - himself no friend of the right - seems to agree with at least two of those adjectives. He reckons that Brown has only succeeded when he hasn't been himself. But when he reverts to type the whole house of cards comes tumbling down.