Alex Massie

Gordon Brown, Caroline Flint, the Scorpion and the Frog

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Of all the blunders made by Gordon Brown and his henchmen, few were as easily avoidable as that which led to Caroline Flint's resignation. Equally, few do more to illuminate a simple, but vital truth: Gordon Brown just isn't very good at politics.

Flint might have been a troublesome minister and far too close to Hazel Blears for her own good, but so what? And, sure, perhaps she was being presumptious when she asked for a better job as the price for her loyalty and willingness to make a fool of herself by defending the beleaguered Prime Minister in public. But, again, so what? There are plenty of jobs avaialable and, let's face it, not too many even semi-plausible candidates to fill them (Hello, Mrs Kinnock!). It would have been easy to keep Flint happy.

But no, because she had the wrong sort of friends or because she was getting ideas above her station or because she had, somehow or other, questioned the Great Gordo's authority Flint had to be punished. If that meant she left the government then so be it. That would teach her! Good riddance! Naebody messes wi' Gordie, ye ken.

And so she walked, but not before releasing a resignation letter that further weakens an already crippled Prime Minister. And yet one senses that Team Broon doesn't much care about this: the main thing is that Flint wasn't able to bully the PM. That's what counts! These people are so wrapped-up in their own little power struggles and displays of machismo that they seem to have little conception of how events look when seen from outside the Downing Street bunker. Everything is tactics and about the short-term; there's no strategy or long-term thinking. Certainly, Flint can do more damage to Brown from the back benches than she would have if she'd just been given another, marginally less dull job.

The only thing that matters is the Diving Line between the elect (who are with Gordon) and the damned (who are not). The latter must be punished even though some of them could easily be brought into the fold. But that would require some nuance and subtlety, to say nothing of a spot of vision, from people who really much prefer to spend their time beating people up.

They're like the scorpion that stings the frog half-way across the river, condemning them both to death by drowning. "Why did you sting me?", asked the frog.  "I could not help myself. It's my nature". That's Team Broon for you. Stupid and vindictive and incapable of looking after their own interests, let alone those of the country.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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