Fraser Nelson

Brown gets lively

Brown gets lively
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Normally, interviewing Gordon Brown is like drawing blood from a stone. In the old days, the interviewer had to rely on someone like Charlie Whelan to call up afterwards and give a real story (like joining the Euro) to compensate for his boss’s reticence. I don’t know what the Times trio slipped into his tea today, but it seems to have worked. And does the headline “Decisive year ahead” mean that 2008 will be the year where he takes a decision? Anyway, here’s what jumped out at me.

1)      On party funding: “I don’t get into the detail of individual donations. That’s for other people.” Is this leadership? He takes over a party almost sunk by dodgy funding, and takes a see-no-evil approach to donations? This hints to his worst characteristic: not giving a stuff as long as he, personally, can’t be blamed.

2)      More fake figures on the economy. “We have managed to get inflation down to grow as an economy….” Flatly untrue. In his first five years, CPI inflation averaged 1.3%. The last five, 1.7% (OECD, Table 18 ) Treasury forecasts show 2.0% this year, rising even higher in future. Is Brown taking a see-no-evil approach to inflation as well? Or has he learnt that a fib with a figure in it is seldom challenged?

3)      Blaming America. Next year, the UK economy is forecast to be one of the worst performers in the world. Brown’s spin will be that there’s a worldwide downturn, which Britain will withstand. Hence he says “I am worried about the information coming out of America.” He should be more worried about the information coming out of the ONS. It shows a downturn made in Downing Street.

4)      No deadline on Northern Rock sale. Ominous. Every day it’s with him, the potential loss to the taxpayer rises. Remember: Black Wednesday cost £3.3bn. Let’s see if NR goes higher.

5)      Again, on funding: “Surely the public would want us to act quickly”. Not if this involves state funding, which the public are implacably opposed to. Brown will get away with this if Cameron wants to join him and get some Tory snouts in the trough. Which, tragically, seems to be the case. 

6)      Brown’s quoting Obama. A reminder the Team Brown (esp. Douglas Alexander) is obsessed with American politics and ape successful tactics as freely as they do Tory policies. Their (failed) critique of Cameron as a “flip-flopper” is the charge Bush successfully levelled against Kerry in 04

7)      The “profits” on “his” new book Wartime Courage will go to charity. Em, what profits? His last book sold so badly that he resorted togiving away copies to African schoolchildren. And he has a cheek talking about military courage when he personally decided that the two wars British troops are now deployed in will be fought on a shoestring. I think a bulk order from the Smith Institute is in order.

So much to pick holes in, but it was a lively and thought-provoking interview rather than insomnia-curing soliloquy. Long may this continue.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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