Quote [96] – Brown As PM And The Trouble With A Disloyal Cabinet

As Heywood once put is in an email exchange with number 10 colleagues, after an overzealous Treasury adviser had rejected a Number 10 request: ‘Perhaps someone should remind him that GB is First Lord of the Treasury.’

But, in the reality of day-to-day interactions, Treasury officials held great power in their control over information.  In the run-up to the Pre-Budget Report, and the Budget the following March, Number 10 was so routinely denied key information that advisers were forced to rely on their own internal model of public spending figures, allowing them to play with spending scenarios, and guess at the numbers Treasury colleagues would not give them.  Their strength was greatly boosted by Josh Goodman, working at Number 10s Policy Unit, and himself a former Treasury official.  Highly rated by colleagues, Goodman’s work enabled advisers to weigh up spending options, and estimate Treasury figures, such as the levels of unemployment assumed in forecasts.

Brown at 10 – Anthony Seldon
On seeking tax revenue:

This aspect of the Pre-Budget Report touched squarely on the fairness agenda, newly dramatised by the banking crisis.  Labour’s own analysis claimed that 50 per cent of all the tax revenues raised since 2008 Pre-Budget Report came from the top 2 per cent of earners – a figure Number 10 felt gave a clear indication of the governments commitment to fairness.

Brown at 10 – Anthony Seldon
“But in his second year, he still set aside an incredible amount of time to get ready for PMQs: four hours on Monday, four hours on Tuesday and, again, all of Wednesday morning.”

“His core PMQs team – “”found that the less time Brown spent, and the less he agonised about it, the better he became.”

Brown at 10 – Anthony Seldon
“Getting the measure of Cameron was something he found very hard to do. ‘He treats PMQs like a game,’ Brown complained.

‘But it is a game’ his team would say back to him.

‘Lighten up and make a joke’ Hoon would advise.  ‘I can’t do that’ was the reply, which the chief whip found very revealing.

‘Why doesn’t he ask me about the big issues of the day,’ the Prime Minister regularly lamented at number 10.  ‘He’s only interested in gossip and innuendo.’

Brown would often become intensely angry that he was unable to command PMQs as he wanted.”

“It took him the best part of two years to understand that PMQs were not the forum for him to announce new policy and that Cameron was playing on his weaknesses to embarrass and annoy him.’  [Cameron] will ask you about the most embarrassing issue of the day, not the most important,’ he would be told, yet it seemed continually to surprise him.

Jowell and Straw, who was felt still to be smarting at not having been made Deputy Prime Minister in the June reshuffle, were holding their own conversations about the ‘Brown problem’.  They, too, had spoken to each other just after New Year and had agreed to see Brown and tell him that he would have ‘think very hard about remaining as leader’.

Jowell saw him at 6pm on Monday 4 January and her understanding was that Straw would see him at 7pm.

“In she marched and reportedly told him: ’I want to see you because this is a conversation only you and I can have.’ “

“It’s not fair, but you’re costing the Labour Party considerable degree of support,’ she is said to have told him. ‘Tony told me that if ever he was an encumbrance to the Labour Party, I must tell him.  I feel I owe it to you Gordon, to tell you directly that this is now the case.  I will never talk to the press about it, but you should still know what I think.’  Piling on the agony, she continued: ‘Even at the end, Tony still had six people in Cabinet who would die for him; you have only one, Ed Balls ..It’s not fair, but people don’t like you.  They don’t understand you.  If you decide to carry on, I’’ continue to support you, but you owe it to the Labour Party to think again.’

At that point, Brown’s morale apparently collapsed and he asked: ‘Are you telling me I have to go?’ She replied: ‘No.  You have to think very hard whether or not it’s right for the Labour Party for you to stand down.’

But what of Straw? Jowell called him on the Monday evening to see how his own meeting had gone: ‘I ran out of time,’ he told her, and was thus unable to raise the question of Brown’s future with him.
Alan Johnson was spoken to by Number 10 but, regardless of what he told Tony Lloyd, he flatly refused to support Brown in public then and there. ‘’I’m not going to be boxed in,’ he told Brown’s team.  When phoned by Number 10, Staid said he would put out a supportive statement but then ‘disappeared for hours’.
Irony was in the air.  Brown had been rejuvenated by the whole coup experience.  He was also philosophical. ‘GB learned to accept it as a fact of life.  He learned to live with the fact that Jack was a schemer.  That Harriet couldn’t be trusted.  That David Miliband wanted his job,’ says one of his aides, adding ruefully: ‘But it was profoundly unhelpful to have had the constant speculation about leadership running through the life of his government.’
He tried hard to be seen as a worthy national leader, by making his regular visits to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the esteem in which he held soldiers of the armed forces was clears from his personal letters and private hospital visits.  Pointedly, he referred to the military in his final words as Prime Minister in the street outside Number 10.  Nothing h did or said made any difference with the senior officers, who never wanted him and mostly treated him with contempt to the end Brown at 10 – Anthony Seldon
Hampered by his frustration with Miliband, and by his December 3007 statement that Britain would ‘never’ talk to the Taliban, Brown ended up distancing himself from a political resolution.  Thus, neither MI6, nor indeed the CIA, was ever authorised to talk to the Taliban, in contrast to Northern Ireland, where there had been a secret channel in existence for twenty years before Major started talking to the IRA.

‘The truth is we can’t communicate with the Taliban. We don’t even really know who they are.  Gordon Brown repeatedly refused to authorise anything in that area.’ Says a senior official.

Brown at 10 – Anthony Seldon

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