What was Gordon Brown up to in offering a job to Paddy Ashdown? He would have known that news would leak (you can always be sure of Ming “colander” Campbell) so what was his game? There are three theories in Westminster today.
I’m not so sure Brown wants to weaken LibDems. When they lose voters, Cameron gains – as the local elections show. I believe its in Brown’s interests to have a healthy LibDem party with which to enter coalition. From now on, we had better get used to these "what's Brown up to" brainteasers. For example: why on earth is he talking up a Euro referendum? He knows he’d have to argue for a "yes", and that he’d be defeated. As so often, Ben Brogan puts it best: Brown is doubtless thinking 12 steps ahead on the political chess board and has calculated there will be no deal, so a referendum is "a safe offer to make.”“1) He wanted to sew division amongst LibDems, furious at the idea that the leadership would be bribed by job offers from Brown.2) He wanted to show willing, so when his Cabinet is announced – and is packed full of Brownite stooges – he can say: well, you can’t say I didn’t try.3) He wanted to infuriate Ming Campbell, by showing that Ashdown is the only LibDem he’d want in his government. Remember, Campbell and Ashdown are old rivals. Campbell and Brown got on well in the pre-1997 coalition negotiations, as his memoirs show.