Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Brown Years

Just been listening to Steve Richards new book 'The Brown Years' being serialised on Radio 4. The first of three episodes tells the story of those first few months in 2007 when Brown took over as Prime Minister - the brief honeymoon through the summer and the catastrophic decision to pull out of an election he had himself hyped up simply to 'wind up' the tories.

The first thing that hits you is Ed Balls' role. This man was right at the heart of the Brownian cabal, describing not just events as they unfolded, but detailed emotions and thinking that characterised his bosses every move.

The Education secretary was not only there at Brown's side, he was tying the blindfold, tightening the noose and pulling the lever. Both Douglas Alexander and Ed Miliband were blamed for 'the election that never was' in September 2007. Both were briefed against to Adam Boulton by number 10. Both by Damian MacBride. Both on the instruction of Ed Balls. Both of which were denied on the program, but in just too general terms, 'I have never in my career...' by Ed Balls.

Did Gordon Brown know this was going on? asks Steve Richards. No answer. But an interesting consequence was that the famously-close Brown treasury team which had moved across to number 10, was now fatally fractured and would never again provide the same coverage.

The 'election that never was' left Brown in limbo - a non-elected Prime Minister, unpopular with a savvy electorate. As Peter Hain put it, the Brown premiership 'never recovered'.

Thereafter, Brown was wickedly mocked at PMQ's, his integrity lost with another enquiry into party funding, whilst the loss of Inland Revenue data disks screemed of incompetence. The seminal accusation of dithering was later reinforced by the ill-judged private signing of the Lisbon Treaty - as if the occasion were something to be ashamed of.

Disaster piled on disaster as events quite beyond Gordon's control blew up. But the media had already shifted. The narrative which Gordon Brow had so singularly failed to tell of what his ambitions for the premiership were had already turned from triumph to disaster.