Fraser Nelson

Brown struggles to push his “renewal package”

Brown struggles to push his "renewal package"
Text settings

Gordon Brown v Evan Davis this morning – and while most Brown interviews before 9am have a soporific effect, this one was (by Brown’s standards) a belter. The Dear Leader had come with an announcement: he is proposing a National Council for Democratic Renewal and was inviting questions on it. Davis had other questions, and you could hear Brown’s irritation grow. “I want the BBC to join a debate about the future,” he said at one point -  Davis just didn’t care. He wanted the PM to join a debate about a whole range of topics: McBride, expenses, the whole shebang. And as for democratic reform, “When a criminal says ‘I’ll stop being a criminal’ we say ‘well, thanks you for that’ but we don’t then say ‘you can go on to be a judge’” he said – why should this Parliament, with people like Nick Brown and Margaret Beckett who voted against reform to expenses, be the Parliament to find a solution?

For me, the most revealing question came right and the end, he asked if Brown would make way for Alan Johnson for the good of the party. “You’ve been very charming in putting the same question in about sixteen different ways. And no doubt you want to get another question which puts the same question...” But this was the first time Davis had broached the leadership. Crucially, in Brown’s head, every question hitherto had been a coded way of sayin: “you must go”. So every answer he offered was saying “I must stay”. You can listen again here, but here are a few lines that jumped out at me.

“I feel with the record I have had in the past I am in the best position to clean up this political system” Staggering though it may seem, Brown is repositioning himself as a white crusader – hence his ‘Presbyterian conscience’ to which he referred yesterday.

(On McBride:) “All press officers are the subject of controversy from Alastair Campbell to Peter Mand ... from all the people who have done press they have made friends and they have made enemies. There is nothing particularly special about that.”
He had to stop himself mid-Mandelson – forgetting that he’s not a press officer now but a member of his Cabinet. Old habits…

(On McBride:) “When people do bad things they go, they resign. They get sacked”. Or sometimes, they cling on as Prime Minister while wrecking the economy and trying to change the system to suit them before they go.

(On McBride:) Q: "Were you surprised?" A: "I was shocked. Your questions rather imply I was not shocked. I was shocked." Note how Brown doesn’t even pretend he was surprised. This is what he paid McBride to do.

“Sometimes events, whether its the event you’re referring to – or other events, expose the need for big change.” Like a general election.

Q:"You think you have delivered the promised end of spin, the culture of spin?" A: "Of course. I’ve been as open as can, as transparent as I can.” This defies comment. I can think of no postwar Prime Minister who has misled and deceived more than Brown. Take his last Budget – he introduced cuts, yet went to great length to conceal them, then accuses the Tories of making cuts. He conceals debt, to mislead the public about how much he’s landed them with.

“I have got a responsibility to complete the work which is taking Britain out of the worst economic downturn for years. The measures that we’re taking are starting to have an effect.” Brown’s “work” – pumping the UK economy full of dangerously underpriced debt – is why the recession has hit us harder, with our unemployment surging faster, than any other country. But note the Green Shoots strategy I mentioned on Friday is being deployed: he wants to take credit for every single positive metric. The Tories must respond to this saying: unemployment, debt, unemployment, debt.

“Six months ago when I put out my ideas about how we dealt with the banks, about how we dealt with the financial system and how we had a fiscal incentive to get through the recession, people thought that these were not the right ideas. I have persuaded people that they are the only way of getting through this downturn and now we are making some progress.” Witness Brown’s favourite tool of the false narrative: what is the great argument he has won? It’s nonsense, but he realises – in the way the Tories still haven’t quite grasped – is that to augment today’s argument you must define the recent past. To sell a solution, you must define the problem. The Tories are still a little too weak on this.

Interesting, though, that Brown has brought his ‘renewal’ package out today, and is already posing as this trusted umpire. Because the public can give a verdict on all this on Thursday. If Labour is buried, the Tories – if they are smart – will argue that Brown’s proposals have been rejected, that he has no mandate, and an election needs to be called so a new Parliament can fix the problems of the old one.

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.

Topics in this articleSociety