David Blackburn

Lance Price: Brown became PM when his skills were declining

Lance Price: Brown became PM when his skills were declining
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Gordon Brown is a creature of habit. Every morning at 7:30 he holds a telephone conference with his cabal of Shakespearean fools, who review the papers for him. I imagine a scene of domesticity, of coffee and muffins, an adoring wife and child milling about offering tactile affection – a hand on the shoulder, a kiss on the head. But then again Brown is a latter day John Knox and this morning he must have sat in pale fury as an aide summarised the extract from Lance Price’s latest book, published in the Independent.

Price, Andrew Rawnsley and Peter Watt share the same lexicon. ‘Unforgivable’, ‘not a nice place for people to work’, ‘psychologically flawed? It doesn’t come close’, ‘self-pity’, ‘bottler’, ‘reign of terror’, and ‘psychologically and emotionally incapable of leadership’. The picture of Brown is conflicted as his remoteness and self-pity compete with stridency – as if Rowan Atkinson had pretensions to being Attila the Hun.

Price’s most damning disclosure is that Brown was obsolete when he succeeded Blair:

‘The system Brown had grown up in and learned to dominate had changed dramatically and was changing still. He had come to the job he had coveted just when his own political skills were becoming redundant and his discomfort was painful to observe.’

Brown’s settled political mind lacked the subtlety required to thrive in constantly changing circumstances. He remains intellectually settled, demonstrated by his recent disingenuous obsession about cuts. Stranded in his heyday, Brown's language is Brit Pop not Vox Pop. The unexpressed conclusion at the heart of Price’s analysis is that far from being past it, Brown was never up to the job in the first place.