Martin Bright

The History of the Hain-Brown Ideological Split

The History of the Hain-Brown Ideological Split
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Every now and again I find myself reaching for Robert Peston's 2005 book, Brown's Britain. As we are now living in Brown's Britain (perhaps we have been for the past 11 or so years) it is a very useful work of reference. We all know by now that Peston was always there first.

The book is particularly enlightening when Peston looks at Brown's early ideological battles within the party.  On page 157 of the paperback edition Peston looks at the what he calls a symbolic "punch-up" with the centre-left Tribune group. In essence this is the group that is most likely to seize control of the Labour Party when Brown eventually loses the leadership, although the Compass fraction (marginally closer to the centre ground) will also be a serious contender. 

As Peston explains, in July 1993 the Tribune group's "flamboyant" secretary Peter Hain had called for a £10 billion to £15 billion reflationary package  to boost growth and tackle unemployment in response to the recession. Sound familiar?

Now read this: "The proposals were derided in the media by "senior Labour sources" as "kiddy economics". Brown still recalls the incident with annoyance, because it might  have undermined his mission to reinvent Labour as a credible manager of the economy: Hain's call for increased borrowing, when the public finances were in a mess, reinforced a perception of Labour as spendthrift. As for Hain, when asked about this bruising encounter with Brown, he still winces."

I wonder if Hain still winces, or whether he feels he was right all along.