Gordon Brown’s First Mistake

I had high hopes for Gordon Brown. He was an excellent Chancellor, but he’s proving to be something of a naive Prime Minister. That’s the problem with people who have powerful visions driving them forward – they can’t always see the scenery changing as they stride into the unknown.

In my opinion, Gordon Brown’s cabinet reshuffle is one such mistake. His “government of all the talents” is beginning to look like a non-starter already. Apart from there being no non-Labour members in it yet, where’s the Labour heavyweight intellects of people such as John Read? Out in the cold.

Instead, we have the young Milliband brothers – young Ed will be looking after the cabinet office (the control centre of British politics) and young David will be in charge of Foreign Policy. Conspiracy theorists might say the Milliband family wish to take over the system, or at least know everything about what is going on.

I wouldn’t like to get into an argument with David Milliband as he does tend to steamroller over people without really listening to what they are saying or even answering their points. So much for Gordon Brown’s “listening government”. Apparently his brother Ed is much of the same. Are they both products of their Marxist activist father or their Jewish roots? Or fully signed up members to British New Labour with no particular Israeli sympathies? We shall see – but don’t expect any revelations from interviews with them. They are very intelligent and, to quote a well used Northern expression, rather too gobby for that. One thing you can say is they are both very young for the positions they now hold.

Now Gordon made much of his call to arms for people from different backgrounds to work together to build a better Britain. So, he has denuded much of the talent he had with him at the Treasury (weakening that institution and giving back control to the Civil Service once more) and been so far unsuccessful in bringing in anyone from any other party to help. Not surprising really. He may have idealistic views about building a better Britain, but I don’t really think David Cameron does – he just wants to rebuild the aristocratic hegemony that once ruled the old Tories, the landed gentry who liked to think of themselves as benign custodians of the poorer classes who couldn’t really look after themselves.

As for Menzies Campbell and the LibDems, joining forces now with Labour would not help their ambitions to become the second party of politics. Only changes to the electoral system can achieve that. Proportional Representation would certainly help them, as well as New Labour since it is widely expected only the Conservatives would suffer. Depending on which PR system was introduced of course. More on that another time.

I was hoping for a better Chancellor too. Alistair Darling has a mixed record, never really shining at anything, although time after time finding work in the Financial areas of the government. His stewardship of the Financial Services Authority was rather lacklustre, and I can’t think of a single thing where he jumped out of the woodwork and shone. It is said “we recruit in our own image” and maybe Gordon thinks someone who keeps their head down is an introvert like he considers himself to be. Gordon, there’s a difference between being shy, and being an introvert: you’re shy, not an introvert.

Still, it is early to judge, but first impressions count. I do like the idea of splitting some of the big departments up, but I do hope Gordon has seen episodes of “Yes, Minister” to see how his grand designs can be so easily absorbed without change by the Civil Servants.

In the end, they always rule.


6 comments on “Gordon Brown’s First Mistake

  1. The whole reshuffle was a little bit ‘more of the same’. It would have been good to break it up a bit with a new kind of politics but I guess Gordon either wimped out or politics isn’t ready to make that kind of leap of faith yet (though it would have been a bit restrictive if cross party cabinet appointees would have had to be under the Labour Whip).

  2. I don’t see why any non-Labour appointees would have had to be under the Labour whip… unless it was to establish an element of control. Personally, if you take in outside advisors I would have thought you took them in because you wanted a different perspective, not because you wanted to control the perspective they took.

    Overall, the cabinet has a very inexperienced look about them, which doesn’t mean they have no talent, just little in the way of experience. It also means of course that Gordon Brown will have less argument from them about his wishes; clearly he is remembering his batles with TB here and trying to avoid something similar.

    Unfortunately, this moves the centre of influence away from the untried and inexperienced politicians and back to the civil servants. Don’t get me wrong, the civil servants are pretty good people – they just aren’t democratically elected and will always resist change. For them, the status quo must be maintained above all else.

    Someone once said “The compliant man fits in with the world. The non-compliant man tries to fit the world to his needs. Therefore, all progress depends on the non-compliant man.”

  3. Maybe I misheard but was listening to something on the radio that said some would have been under the Labour Whip (Paddy Ashdown would have been it seems) which would obviously be a bit off-putting. I hope Brown hasn’t just surrounded himself totally with Brownites.

  4. I think it depends if they are classed as an advisor (like Shirley Williams) or as part of the government with a cabinet position (like they wanted Paddy Ashdown to be). Being a member of the government required those people to also be Labour Party members. No idea why though – it doesn’t work that way for coalitions, does it?

  5. Maybe it’s the rumoured Stalinist smackdown on possible dissent. Like you say it’s odd if that would have been the case.

  6. While there are people now in the cabinet with Marxist connections, I think saying Stalinist goes a bit far. If that was the case, the raft of new suggestions to reform government would not have been presented.

    Gordon is very much New Labour, and we shall see more of this by his actions (Stalinists wouldn’t have given the Bank of England independence for instance).

    I think Gordon’s going to be a lot better for the country than Cameron’s Eton trifles, although some of his changes may be somewhat unexpected. Still, he did say he would put an end to spin though!

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