Few columnists can claim to understand Team Brown better than Jackie Ashley, so her Guardian column
this morning on this weekend's Blairite overtures
is particularly interesting. Ashley writes that Brown “is probably tempted to pick up this olive branch and use it to give the Blairites a thrashing.”
But she warns the Prime Minister that this would be the wrong thing to do and that he needs the Blairites’s help “to find new ways to reconcile liberty and security, and to express them in ways that most people approve. He needs to find new ways of reaching out to older voters: at the next election the majority of voters will be over 58. What is the new Labour offer to those worried about pensions, long-term care, and ever-scarcer local services?”
What is so interesting about this is the implicit admission that Brown doesn’t have any game-changing ideas of his own. It is, though, hard to see this idea-sharing process going smoothly. However much Stephen Byers, Alan Milburn, Charles Clarke and the others deny that they are plotting, the press will seize on any interventions from them as evidence of a Blairite uprising. Equally, the boldness of their thinking—liberated from the constraints of office—will serve to show up just how timid Brown is being. There’s also the fact that, as Fraser has noted, Brown is going backwards on public service reform; moving away from even the mild reforms that were introduced towards the end of the Blair era.