The Spectator

Was Brown really serious about this offer?

Was Brown really serious about this offer?
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I’ve been musing on Fraser’s post about the Ashdown affair and can’t help thinking that Brown must have know that Ashdown would say no: Northern Ireland Secretary is hardly something worth breaking with your party for. Indeed, if you think about it, is hard to see what the attraction of the job is even to someone like Ashdown who has personal links to the province. The ‘heroic’ period of peace-making, which wasn’t heroic at all to my mind but that’s an issue for another day, is over and the prizes for solving the Irish Question have already been awarded.

If Brown had really wanted to bring Ashdown inside the tent he could have tempted him with something involving Iraq or Afghanistan. He could have put Ashdown in charge of a government, rather than think tank, Baker-Hamilton style Iraq commission. Or, offered him the post of defence secretary. This would have been both good politics, distancing Gordon from Iraq and muddying the Lib Dem’s anti-war stance by bringing one of the very few pro-war Lib Dems into the government, and good for the country, Ashdown's Balkans experience makes him by far the most qualified politician to deal with these issues. The fact Brown didn’t, suggests that his real aims were what Fraser reported.

One other thing worth thinking about, both Cameron and Brown have now tried and failed to do deals with Ming. But while Cameron’s failure blew up in his face, Brown’s seems to be rebounding to his benefit.