If abandoning Gordon is wrong, junking his ideas is just stupid.

by John Woodcock

So, Gordon Brown’s book Beyond the Crash is out today.

The former prime minister’s account of the global financial collapse deserves to make a significant impact on Britain’s collective understanding of what has happened to its economy in, and since, the crisis. It ought to cast in a different light a still-towering figure whose reputation has been trashed by all-comers since election defeat in May.

I say “deserves” and “ought”, rather than “will”, because the truth is that political orthodoxy has shifted so starkly since the election that Gordon’s account may struggle to achieve what it should – at least in the short term.

In the heady days of the London G20, when Gordon was rightly being lauded for his role in crafting an effective international response to the global meltdown, it would have been almost inconceivable that the ideas he was championing would fall off the UK radar in such a short time.

But they have. And with them has gone Labour’s stake in the narrative about how we arrived in the economic situation in which we find ourselves.

That the man who did so much to save family finances and businesses from collapse may now struggle to get a hearing should sober those of us opposing the brutal course set by the new administration.

Because, make no mistake, Gordon, and the Labour ministers he led, did play their part in saving the world when the banks teetered on the verge of collapse. He may have immediately punctured his own bubble, fairly typically, by blurting the phrase out at PMQs. But it was true, even if he did accidentally say so himself.

We should be fiercely and vocally proud of that achievement. And we should be equally fierce and vocal about Gordon’s role in securing it. That such pride often seems hard to come by in the British Labour party is adding to our current difficulties.

The leadership race and the memoirs unleashed over the summer have given us the chance to move on from the conflicting passions still aroused by the transition from Tony to Gordon and the years that followed.

A lot of that process is healthy and necessary. In seeking to learn the lessons of defeat, people have adversely, and with some justfication, criticised aspects of Gordon’s economic prospectus and the way he communicated it to the nation. We have asked ourselves legitimate questions about the best level of spending in the economy and whether we got the balance right over the last decade. And, inevitably, the true scale of the turbulence created by people’s dissatisfaction with Gordon’s wider leadership style has come to the surface.

Yet the cumulative effect of the way we have sought to distance ourselves from our recent past has been to aid the Conservatives in their central mission of labelling our whole economic approach as wasteful and inevitably leading to disaster.

In this new world, reminding William Hague that he refers to himself as a “child of Thatcher” is now seen as a gaffe because it invites the far more damaging retort that our new leader was close to Gordon. How fundamentally things have changed in less than a decade, when Labour was helped on its way to a second landslide by posters of the then Tory leader wearing a photoshopped Maggie wig.

This new Tory hegemony won’t last forever. The political pendulum will swing back again at some point. But how long it stays like this will define for how long the people we are in politics to represent get a raw deal.

If we want to give the pendulum a shove back in the right direction we had better be prepared to use every tool at our disposal. That very much includes this weighty tome from our former leader.

John Woodcock is Labour and Cooperative MP for Barrow and Furness.

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3 Responses to “If abandoning Gordon is wrong, junking his ideas is just stupid.”

  1. Marcus Cotswell says:

    Wasn’t Brown’s reputation fairly comprehensively junked even before he took over as PM by your old boss John Hutton? A ‘f***ing disaster’ was the phrase, I believe. Seems to me the master had it about right; is the pupil perhaps trying to position himself a bit here?

  2. Keith says:

    Absolutely right Marcus. Biggest mistake the Labour party ever made allowing this man to force his way to becoming leader.

  3. Anon E Mouse says:

    Browns reputation was trashed when he employed Damian McBride, sold the gold off at a record low, taxed the pensions, claimed an end to “Boom and bust” when people started borrowing against their properties and said Britain would lead the G20 out of recession.

    Brown should hide his head in shame for what he’s done.

    This dishonest bully, the most unpopular PM since records began, has contributed to Labour losing 5 million voters and the only thing in his favour is it seems he is less of a ditherer than Ed Miliband…

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