As it is in the UK, ninety years of cruising around in the belief that 36% of the vote entitles our political masters to 100% of the power has scarce prepared them for an hour such as this. Although they are being uncharacteristically soppy-stern and polite, they don’t seem to know how to talk with each other, rather than at each other. One optimistic hope is that they will learn, and this will be good for us all. The problem has been acknowledged since the 1860’s, and the kind of solution we need an open secret since the Royal Commission of 1908-10. They can hardly say they weren‘t warned.
And as the great Poker Game in the Sky grinds on around Westminster, first man down is Gordon Brown. How will historians see him?
Two interesting counterfactuals could be run:
- What if John Smith had lived another ten years?
- What if Brown had cut and run in 2007 to establish his legitimacy?
To Brown’s credit, probably, is his performance as a very British iron chancellor. His staunchest opponents will have to grudgingly admit he held his nose and did what probably had to be done about the credit crunch, and competently. His tax credits scheme was a way of redistributing income without raising income tax. He generated shedloads of cash to throw at education and health after thirty years of cuts. Yes, there’s a comparatively high peacetime public debt, but everyone’s got one of those coming out of recession, whilst economic historians will point out that as a proportion of GDP it’s actually lower than for most of the tweniteth century.
Brown was a Roundhead at Tony Blair’s Cavalier party. When Blair and Brown met at the Loch Fyne Fish Restaurant, or wherever, they carved up the next 13 years of the governance of Brtain between them. The process was probably much swifter and easier than what has been going on since last Thursday, and considerably more lasting.
However, as Blair swigged the champagne, Brown gagged on his Irn Bru. Therein lies tragedy.
Once Brown had gotten over the joy of playing with the real levers of power at Number 11, he probably hated the party, but hung on in there for the joy that lay ahead. How sad that it was so joyless when he got it. Nobody knows at what point Blair and/or Brown bricked up the corridor from Number 11 to Number 10, but his estrangement from his ertswhile dinner companion was disastrous. Brown, as a man of genuine rectitude, probably found it hard to believe what some of his less puritanical colleagues were up to.
But Brown was a genuine conviction politician. I remember his appearance at the Lambeth Conference. He obviously knew and owned the Millennium Development Goals without cue cards. He actually belived in that stuff.
Colleagues from all over the world, who believe the English to be clever but devious, were impressed by his obvious sincerity and passion. Not quite English. Scots, in fact.
Too passionate, not emotionally intelligent enough? How about what they are already calling Bigot-Gate? Other politicians suggest they would never call a voter anything as rude as “that woman.” When the great bin of emails is emptied out on the day of doom, and the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, I believe it will show other politicians have, in fact, called voters, and their colleagues, considerably ruder things and got away with it. But not with the microphone on.
And after all those complaints about Tony Blair’s addiction to spin, it’s ironic and sad, in some ways, that Brown’s “Lion in Winter” style was such a rat sandwich to Fleet Street, if not all the British public.
Blair danced for us and we tried to dance, with all the finesse Btits bring to that activity. Brown wept for us and we would not wail. He’s almost certainly done the decent thing politically. I think history will be kinder to him than the Sun. Let’s see who’s next.