Matthew Dancona

Gove’s prophecy

Gove's prophecy
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Hat tip for political prophecy to Michael Gove who, in October 2007, provided the best analysis of what makes Gordon tick yet delivered by a senior Tory, and one which is even more impressive in the light of the McBride Affair  In a speech to the Bow Group, Gove dissected the (then newish) PM’s flaws to devastating effect, comparing Brown’s shortcomings to those of leaders past such as Lloyd George, LBJ and Mitterrand. Idealism, sincere initially, falls victim to the methods used to win and retain power:

" order to win power, in order to hold it, in order to manage affairs, in order to woo public opinion, that idealism is progressively diluted, twisted or sacrificed. Such a leader can appear impressive, even after the idealism has dissipated, for as long as the trappings of power allow him to occupy a position at the centre of events.

But, with the idealism which once animated him now bent out of shape by the exercise of power, the occupancy of office becomes increasingly an end in itself. And behind the manoeuvres which holding on to office requires, there is increasingly less to show – a vacuum where once there was a vision." At the heart of this, Gove argued, was a pathological instinct to centralise and cling to power, trusting only an inner circle of devoted loyalists:

"He is profoundly uncomfortable with anything which occurs on any terms but his own. Because acquiring power has involved a sacrifice of so much, in terms of youthful idealism, the surrender of any power is an acutely painful exercise to contemplate.

If we look for one second at the nature and structure of his Government – the fabled big tent – then we can see that he is a ringmaster particularly fond of the whip. His principal Cabinet ministers are, with one or two rare exceptions, all former protégés. Three – Ed Balls, Ed Miliband and Douglas Alexander – former researchers. Others – such as Alistair Darling – are just satellite powers." The tragedy of Brown, Gove concluded, is as follows:

"The tragedy of Gordon Brown's premiership, however long it lasts, is that its remaining raison d'etre is its own longevity ... there is no newly-refurbished politics of the Left, simply an itch to centralise and a faith in bureaucratic control which speaks of nothing so much as an attachment to power itself.

In public debate they choose not to offer hope, but simply go on the attack.

Instead of introducing a new and more plural style of Government they have tried to resurrect an old politics of division, denigration and distortion .

And in their style of Government, not least on Europe, they decide what we need and tell us not to answer back.

They have said to the British people 'give us your trust and accept our judgement' when a new politics of optimism should place its trust in the British people's own judgement.

Nothing in politics is so powerful as idealism – it is Labour's tragedy that while they cling to power, the idealism in British politics is now found elsewhere."

How resonant all this seems 18 months on. A Government addicted to power for its own sake has accelerated its own downfall by resorting to methods that know no limits and reflect no principles.