Fraser Nelson

Telling tales of his mother and father

Telling tales of his mother and father
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Gordon Brown does not have much of a personal “backstory” but he does talk about his family. When he’s feeling guilty about something, he mentions his father. But today, speaking to the Welsh Labour Party, he again talks about a figure we heard about a few days ago: his grandfather.

“Like so many here I come from a family whose grandfather went without work during much of the 1930s. A grandfather whose small savings gave his son, my father, the chance of an education, the first in our family to go to university. And the lesson of those days is that even in the worst of times families helped each other, supported each other, came to the aid of each other through thousands of acts of friendship caring and support. And that reveals the most important lesson of all; that it’s not markets that create morals: morals spring from the compassion of our hearts”

Given how utterly unremarkable it is to have grandparents who had a tough time in the 1930s, one can only presume that Brown’s aim is to contrast this with Cameron’s grandparents. But playing the “poor family background” card really is pushing it. As a Church of Scotland minister, Brown’s father was in a position to give his family a very comfortable life. Brown simply does not have a poverty song to sing.

Worse, the horizontal ties that he speaks about – where families help each other – have been steadily eroded by the vertical ties which bind individuals to the state. This is precisely what a Conservative government aims to reverse. As Cameron said in his video (more of which later) the Tories will pass power from the state to communities. Brown’s grandfather would have been delighted.

But most strikingly, we hear a local version of the “2.5 million new jobs” Brownie which surfaced in his Economist interview yesterday. He tells Wales how good they’ve had it under Labour with 100,000 more jobs. But, as nationally, how many of these were imported? Surely matters is to what extent economic growth helped those on benefits in Wales. In its case, not very much – as the below graph shows (data from DWP)