Martin Bright

The Least Democratic Cabinet Since the War

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I didn't think Gordon Brown's narcissistic statements of principle could get more embarrassing. The idea that he is driven by his presbyterian conscience was bad enough, but this Washingtonian nonsense about being taught by his father to always be honest is just hide-behind-the-sofa excruciating.

It's been my experience that people's own mythology of themselves is often completely out of kilter with the way other people see them. Gordon Brown appears to have no self-knowledge at all.

Richard Reeves, the director of Demos put it very well on Newsnight tonight when he said that James Purnell has simply said what he believed to be the case and that this is a refreshing change for a politician. The contrast between Purnell and Brown could not be greater. It was fascinating that Peter Hain took the opprortunity to praise his successor at Work and Pensions as a man of honour. Newcastle-under-Lyme MP Paul Farrelly made a similar point last night. Neither Hain nor Farrelly are natural allies of Purnell.

I know there are some around the outgoing Work and Pensions Secretary who believe it is a catastrophe that other Cabinet members didn't take this moment to resign. But Purnell (and Caroline Flint in her way) have struck a blow for truth telling. Those who believe the same but chose not to follow Purnell's lead look diminished  for it.

This was a desperate reshuffle. With Lord Adonis at Transport and Lord Mandelson at Business, Innovation and Skills (and presumably Universities and Enterprise and Regulatory Reform as well) this is the least democratic government Britain has seen since the end if the Second World War. Thinking about it, Brown could have saved himself a lot of trouble by simple giving Mandelson the Chancellorship and Foriegn Secretary posts as well.