Brown haters remember: what goes around comes around

by Kevin Meagher

So George Osborne is to officially nominate French finance minister, Chstistine Lagarde, to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn as managing director of the international monetary fund.

In the process, Gordon Brown’s potential candidacy for the role has been banjoed before it even (officially) began. His pitch well and truly queered.

The black spot was pushed across the table to him last month when Cameron said he “might not be the most appropriate person” for a role “work[ing] out whether other countries around the world have debt and deficit problems”.

A bit rich, perhaps, coming from the former special adviser to Norman Lamont on Black Wednesday, but there you go.

Now it is suggested that David Cameron intends to champion Peter Mandelson for the soon to be vacated role as director general of the world trade organisation; suitable political cover, he no doubt thinks, for not backing Brown’s IMF bid.

Now there’s nothing wrong with a bit of tribal disdain for your political opponents. In fact, I would go further; it is impossible to hold ministerial office without doing some things badly and having at least part of your record that deserves to have rocks thrown at it.

It goes with the territory. But the extreme dislike of Gordon Brown by his Conservative opponents is completely out of proportion to his alleged “crimes” and, in the form of a David Cameron veto on Brown going to the IMF, looks a gift horse in the mouth in terms of extending Britain’s national interest.

That point was powerfully made on Monday by former world bank president, John Wolfensohn, praising Gordon Brown for possessing “the leadership skills, the vision and the determination to bring the world together”.

Lord Skidelsky, Keynes’ biographer, was more direct:  “It is absolutely scandalous the British government is not putting him forward – in fact, it has done the reverse and made it clear that it would oppose him. He is incredibly well qualified. It seems to me very small-minded and petty”.

They are right. This is spiteful hack politics.

And, quite possibly, unnecessary.

As Patrick Wintour and Nicholas Watt have pointed out, Germany and France want a representative from a euro state in any event, given the IMF’s current role in supporting struggling eurozone members. Gordon Brown may have struggled against that headwind, with or without British backing.

But the issue of the prime minister’s disdainful treatment of his predecessor remains. You don’t have to come over all “maiden aunt” to deprecate Cameron for it; especially as Labour did not similarly malign Conservative figures when the boot was on the other foot.

John Major’s Chief Whip, Alistair Goodlad, was made high commissioner to Australia in 2000. Ex-Tory party chairman, Chris Patten, led a landmark review of policing in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, Sebastian Coe, was allowed to lead London’s bid for the 2012 olympic games.

Indeed, when it comes to ecumenism, let us not forget that it was Gordon Brown who agreed that Margaret Thatcher would be granted a £3 million state funeral upon her death – the first prime minister to receive the posthumous honour since Churchill in 1965.

But what really bugs Brown’s critics, of course, is that he represents the social democratic heart of Labour’s period in office. He is the corporeal representation of the social spending that the Tories so disdain. Brown was the engine room; the propulsion both intellectual and organisational that kept Labour in power for 13 years.

Sure, Tony Blair had the voter appeal; but it was Brown who provided the purpose, the heft; the “big clunking fist” in Blair’s velvet glove.

That is what lies at the heart of this snide point-scoring: payback time. But no amount of Brown’s cold-shouldering of George Osborne or talking down to Nick Clegg warrants this venal act of political sabotage; it is simply about knifing a hated political enemy.

But hating Brown – and that is not too strong a term for the behaviour of his opponents – on either personal or ideological grounds is a corrosive habit to get into.

All politicians, even those we dislike, are capable of objective achievements which it is churlish not to acknowledge. Even Gordon Brown’s biggest enemy ought to concede that his role in leading the response to the international financial crisis was critical; he was the right man in the right place at the right time.

He has earned his place at the top table of international politics and finance. In the words of former US federal reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, Brown is “without peer amongst the world’s economic policymakers”.

Like any other senior politician, he is no angel. Thirteen years at the very top of British politics is a lot of record to account for. But Gordon Brown does not deserve the level of juvenile disrespect that comes from his opponents on the right.

They should remember that politics is a great leveller. What goes around comes around. Cameron, Clegg and Osborne have potentially decades left in public life (Strauss-Kahnesque scandals aside).

There will come a time when they are ex-ministers too. But if, one day, they covet a role suitable for their talents, strengthening Britain’s international hand in the process, then I would hope a Labour prime minister would have the good grace to support them.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor Labour Uncut.


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22 Responses to “Brown haters remember: what goes around comes around”

  1. Don Gately says:

    Whilst I do think Brown’s talents and experience shouldn’t go to waste I think it’s a bit rich to expect the shower in office at the moment to put tribalism to one side when Brown himself could never do this.

    There’s also an issue of politics. Brown is a divisive figure and was viewed rather negatively by most of the electorate – including many labour voters. I think Brown needs to recover some credibility first before being able to take on any significant post. But even if the tories weren’t deeply antipathetic towards brown they could never associate themselves with the person they’re blaming for the deficit. Did we expect labour in 97 to suggest Lamont might lead international financial institutions? Sure, no one of significance thought lamont was any good but it doesn’t matter who internationally thinks brown is right for the job – the fact is domestically he is not viewed in the same light and it’s naive at best to expect any govt to ignore domestic politics when making appointments.

    On a more pragmatic note though, I’m not convinced Brown at the IMF would be good for labour and their current leader as Brown would cast a long shadow and make it harder for miliband to renew the party

  2. theProle says:

    >But what really bugs Brown’s critics, of course, is that he represents the social democratic heart of Labour’s period in office. He is the corporeal representation of the social spending that the Tories so disdain. Brown was the engine room; the propulsion both intellectual and organisational that kept Labour in power for 13 years.

    I had to stop reading at this point, I was laughing so much.
    Do you guys not know what he did to you yet? He spent most of the Blair era systematically stabbing Blair in the back, then threw away the only chance he had to hold another election he could have won because he was too much of a coward (and in doing so he poured huge amounts of scarce Labour party money down the drain). Finally, when it was obvious to man and beast (to say nothing of most of the PLP) that he was going to lose Labour the 2010 election by the biggest margin possible, he made it quite clear that he wasn’t going to go until he had crashed the party (and the country) into the ground at full speed.

    Believe you me, those on the right are Brown’s biggest fan club. We would love him to be leading the Labour party now, just to ensure you stay unelectable.

    However, the thought of giving the man a real job where he could try to wreck the whole world’s economy, rather than just the UK’s is beyond considering.

    And that this the difference between Brown and any of the other example you give. He is not competent. And that is why Mandelson is more likely to get appointed than Brown – while he is (if anything) more of a hate figure for the right, we recognize he would actually be able to do the job.
    As a final note, while John Major’s chief whip may have got a new job under Labour, John Major didn’t…

  3. Gary says:

    As I scanned the headline, I thought it actually read “Hated Brown remembers what goes around comes around”.

    And I was kinda right. Cameron may well be personal, spiteful and tribal about this, but to suggest that only the Tories are guity of it, and that Brown was somehow ‘tribal-free’ in his dealing with Cameron et al would be utter, laughable rubbish.

    What goes around comes around indeed.

  4. Thoroughly agree, Kevin. Petty and spiteful. There is also a practical partisan motive: a successful and powerful Brown at the IMF might lead the public to reevaluate the now conventional wisdom that Brown “maxed out the credit card”, which is the Tories’ major lifesaver.

  5. william says:

    The voters voted for Blair,as PM, and roundly rejected Brown,at the first opportunity.Goodlad,Patten and Coe’s jobs were minor, compared to the IMF.A recommendation from Greenspan(he of the Greenspan put, which allowed an earlier bubble to take place) is worthless.Brown’s opponents do not ‘hate’ him( only Labour does that to its opponents).He was, indeed,’the engine room’ for 13 years,which culminated in a massive imbalance in the government’s finances,as recognised in Darling’s plan to put them right.True, he was chairman of the London Group of 20 meeting of April 2009,but that was all,he was in the chair,the initiatives were not his property.Given his position in 1999 on G7 debt relief in Africa,and his widely recognised mental health problems,a senior appointment to an international charity would be appropriate.

  6. iain ker says:

    *former special adviser to Norman Lamont on Black Wednesday*

    Soooo weak; stop trying to pretend that you think a Spad is anything other than a glorified intern.

    *especially as Labour did not similarly malign Conservative figures when the boot was on the other foot.*

    No – they were too busy ‘unleashing the forces of hell’ on their own Cabinet to bother with the Tories.

    *But what really bugs Brown’s critics, of course, is that he represents the social democratic heart blah di blah di bla*

    No, what really bugs Captain Insensible’s critics is that he busted the economy and bullied his subordinates (and his boss) while doing it.

    *his role in leading the response to the international financial crisis was critical*

    Amazing – whenever anyone says this to me, I ask them what it was he did and how did it ‘save the world’. They never quite seem to have the answer. And I bet you don’t either, although I’m sure you can google it.

    I’m presuming that with this article you’re playing devil’s advocate. If you really believe the guff you’ve written then I feel for you, truly I do.

    The Captain was a serious and serial incompetent and certainly (as you so coyly put it) ‘no angel’. Absolutely he should not be inflicted on the countries the IMF represents, nor should he be inflicted on the staff of the IMF. Why should they come to work to be bullied, briefed against, shoved out of the way, have boxes of paper clips thrown at them, their chairs punched and their desks kicked over.

    Anyway last time I looked he already had a full time job. If he really thinks it so beneath him he should give it up.

  7. Boo hoo. Life’s not fair. Except this is precisely a case of ‘what comes around goes around’. If as CX and then PM you don’t deign to have even the most perfunctory personal relationship with your opposite numbers, you have no grounds to complain (or have others complain on your behalf) when they fail to extend favours to you when they are in office.

    The reference to Norman Lamont is telling. Can you imagine Brown backing Lamont for such a post? No, didn’t think so. Ah, you will no doubt say, but Lamont was responsible for X, Y and Z so he wasn’t up to the job (never mind that he had both arms tied behind his back by the ERM which Brown also backed, lest we forget). The point is, Brown, whether you like it or not, is just as discredited in the eyes of Cameron, Osborne and – just to remind you – the British electorate. Your snide remark about Lamont reflects right back onto the case in hand.

    So yes, what comes around goes around. It’s called politics. Get over it.

  8. Chris says:

    This is utter rubbish.

    Gordon Brown is the one who is learning “what goes around comes around”.
    There are numerous accounts of him behaving in an utterly unacceptable, overly partisan and juvenile way himself on his way up to the ladder.

    He’s now reaping the consequences.

  9. Kevin says:

    Rob – you’re absolutely right. There is a very practical partisan motive in keeping Gordon Brown as an enduring bogeyman.

    Mind you, can’t blame other correspondents for playing the man not the ball. With rising inflation, stagnant growth and stubbornly high unemployment, I would want to draw attention away from the shambles of Mr Osborne’s economic policy too if I was a Tory footsoldier.

  10. Chris says:

    “Do you guys not know what he did to you yet? He spent most of the Blair era systematically stabbing Blair in the back, then threw away the only chance he had to hold another election he could have won because he was too much of a coward (and in doing so he poured huge amounts of scarce Labour party money down the drain). Finally, when it was obvious to man and beast (to say nothing of most of the PLP) that he was going to lose Labour the 2010 election by the biggest margin possible, he made it quite clear that he wasn’t going to go until he had crashed the party.”

    Spot on.

    This is why I, as a Labour member, will never forgive him.

  11. AmberStar says:

    I get so sick of the knee-jerk, Gordon Brown hate brigade who still descend on every website & pour forth their bile.

    Most of them have no idea what the IMF does; no clue about its strengths & weaknesses or how it interacts (or rather doesn’t) with developing nations which have a crisis. They haven’t bothered to investigate its relationship with the World Bank or the purpose of those institutions. Yet they are so certain, from their position of ignorance, that Gordon Brown would be the wrong person to head the IMF.
    😎

  12. Kevin says:

    AmberStar – quite right. The Tory boys above sound quite rattled – and underline the point about them being one dimensional Brown haters.

    Still, they’ll soon have enough on their plate defending Mr Osborne amid his collapsing credibility.

  13. Robert says:

    “I get so sick of the knee-jerk, Gordon Brown hate brigade who still descend on every website & pour forth their bile.”

    Ah. You mean the public.

    “Most of them have no idea what the IMF does; no clue about its strengths & weaknesses or how it interacts (or rather doesn’t) with developing nations which have a crisis. They haven’t bothered to investigate its relationship with the World Bank or the purpose of those institutions. Yet they are so certain, from their position of ignorance, that Gordon Brown would be the wrong person to head the IMF.”

    Yes, Because this is all about the role of the IMF, not about the appalling record of Gordon Brown. If only you could make the electorate understand what they should think, eh?

  14. william says:

    @Amberstar.There is no prospect of the electorate voting for a future labour government,led by Ed Miliband or anybody else,unless the disastrous stewardship of Gordon Brown is admitted.Where is this ‘hate brigade’?The simple fact is that the English voter would have nothing to do with a party led by Brown,and will need some convincing, in future,that the sins of the past are not going to be repeated.

  15. iain ker says:

    I like to think I’m a multi-dimensional ‘Brown-hater’.

    I’m quite familiar, thanks anyway, with the IMF and its works.

    I have not much idea of the intricacies of running a fish and chip van: I still wouldn’t let Captain Insensible anywhere near one though

  16. Kevin says:

    Iain – touché!

    Does that mean you can talk multi-dimensional cobblers?

    By the way Old Sport, what are your thoughts on the growth warning from the OECD given your peerless economic wisdom? Should your bezza mate George heed their calls to cut less drastically. Do tell.

    On second thoughts…

  17. Henrik says:

    @Amber Star: the electorate. Tch, what are we to do, they’re pig-ignorant and prejudiced. If they were only progressive, they’d realise that we’re right and that the Tories are BAD and WICKED and WRONG and EVIL and it’s all so UNFAIR.

    Brown was a disastrous Chancellor and arguably one of the most ineffectual Prime Ministers, ever. Never mind Party affiliation, never mind all the stories about the state of his mental health, all irrelevant, look at the state he left the country in. QED, I think.

  18. Matt says:

    The IMF is an organisation. It requires someone to run it who can run organisations.

    Brown?

    I think not, somehow.

  19. AmberStar says:

    Are the entire electorate ‘Gordon Brown’ haters? That’s your characterization of the electorate not mine.

    And Gordon Brown will continue to be held in esteem by the international community no matter how many times you pour forth your bile on the comments boards.

    I hope Gordon’s family take a little comfort from the fact that, whilst you are here being nasty about him, you can’t be protesting against the international aid budget or saying there are too many people on the planet already & the poor of developing nations should be left to die in poverty.
    😎

  20. Agree with this article. The hatred leveled at Brown and disdain for him is juvenile at best. It’s unfortunate too because he would have been a good IMF head.

    I think that he’s a smart and talented guy and that, as a senior statesman, he’ll continue to have future opportunities even if the IMF didn’t work out.

    @ Amber Star

    “I get so sick of the knee-jerk, Gordon Brown hate brigade who still descend on every website & pour forth their bile.

    Most of them have no idea what the IMF does; no clue about its strengths & weaknesses or how it interacts (or rather doesn’t) with developing nations which have a crisis. They haven’t bothered to investigate its relationship with the World Bank or the purpose of those institutions. Yet they are so certain, from their position of ignorance, that Gordon Brown would be the wrong person to head the IMF.”

    Not surprisingly, I agree with your sentiments. 🙂 (What’s new?)

  21. iain ker says:

    By the way Old Sport, what are your thoughts on the growth warning from the OECD given your peerless economic wisdom?

    —————————————————

    Bill Gross (google him) ‘Uk gilts are sitting on a bed of nitro-glycerine.’

    UK gilts are what we need to convince nasty foreigners they want to buy from us in order to fund the operation of this country.

    These same nasty foreigners need to believe we have a credible plan to reduce our deficit and debt.

    RBS (mostly ours now) has £1.5 trillion of quote unquote assets on its (our) balance sheet. The difference between that number and reality, you can add to our public sector debt. Rinse and repeat with HBOS, Northern Crock et al. Add unfunded public sector liabilities to all that and some off-balance sheet PFI.

    And carry on spending more than we’re earning while telling everyone how clever Balls and Captain Insensible are.

    Hope this helps.

  22. iain ker says:

    edit – Add unfunded public sector pension liabilities to all that and some off-balance sheet PFI.

    And if you have some idle time do find me a funded public sector pension.

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