Saturday 11 November 2017

Gordon Brown's memoirs sound unpickupable

From Lord Mandelson's review of Gordon Brown's memoirs. 
Modernisation is too often caricatured as privatisation in this book, and fails to grasp that New Labour’s reform agenda was not in opposition to social justice, but the only way in a changing world to achieve it.
I agree with his lordship on this . This is what the people who think Mr Blair was not left-wing fail to understand. He was hugely successful at transforming Britain in a left wing direction because he presided over economic growth and won three landslide election victories. His two great mistakes, from a Labour point of view, were announcing that he
would not fight a fourth election and not firing Gordon Brown.

Just as Mrs. Thatcher's greatest achievement was ultimately to make the Labour party electable and Thatcherite, so he made the Tories left of centre Blairites. Mr Cameron continued to move the UK to the left.

Mrs. May would have moved the country much further to the left had she won a big majority. It's possibly good that she didn't. Only the DUP is conservative nowadays and not as regards economics - the DUP likes public spending.

Mr Blair, Mr Brown and Lord Mandelson came to power in 1997 having concentrated their minds on achieving power and without giving a thought about what to do with it. Remarkably, Gordon Brown achieved the premiership ten years later after ten years of internecine war without having any ideas about what to do. 

When James Callaghan finally replaced Harold Wilson as Prime Minister in 1976 he is reported to have said that, when faced with any problem, he always asked himself what Harold would have done. He then did the opposite. People forget that Callaghan adopted monetarism before Mrs Thatcher came to office. Brown, on the other hand, was not very different from his predecessor. His attempt to paint himself in his self serving memoirs as to the left of Tony Blair is misleading. 

A Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, admires the way Mr Brown handled the banking crisis in 2008. Many think he should have let bad banks go bust. His most impressive achievement is that he did much better than expected in the general election of 2010 and almost won enough seats to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. I somehow doubt that David Miliband would have done better.

Mr Brown's three other great achievements were: pointlessly dividing the Labour government for ten years; working to make Ed Miliband Labour leader, out of spite towards Tony Blair, thus ensuring that New Labour was discredited and paving the way for Jeremy Corbyn; and one admirable achievement - preventing the UK adopting the euro. 

But this last is much less important than it seems, because Tony Blair had promised not to adopt the euro without a referendum. We know how that referendum would have turned out.

But he has a bigger legacy, though indirect. Mr Brown did not allow Britain a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, something his Conservative opponent David Cameron had promised. The treaty was ratified by all EU states while Labour was in power. This meant a referendum on the treaty was impossible and this led David Cameron to promise instead a referendum on European Union membership. Gordon Brown could have prevented Brexit by holding a referendum on the treaty. 

It's a funny old world, as Mrs. Thatcher told her Cabinet when she informed them that she was resigning.

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