Who does not remember that back in 2005 the witty literati on the Blair team at No 10 affectionately used to call Chancellor Gordon Brown Mrs Rochester, in honour of his wild shrieks from the Whitehall attic against the emerging EU Budget deal, under which the UK surrendered part of its Rebate?
The Mail on Sunday revelations about the innards of the Brown premiership and Labour Party funding as described by top former Labour insider Peter Watt are gripping reading. Well done Iain Dale for publishing them.
Two points struck me.
First, the fact that Gordon Brown’s leadership roles within the Labour Party have coincided with the Party speadily spending more than it was taking in, year by year for a decade.
This bizarre irresponsibility towards his own Party’s funding has been expressed towards the nation’s finances too. What is it about Socialists that they do not understand the simplest economic or even common sense reality?
Plus see also the amazing Watt anecdote highlighted by Fraser Nelson, describing how Gordon Brown ruined a small private lunch gathering he himself was hosting by spiralling off into a deep sulk – over the seating-plan:
When Gordon finally reappeared he was aghast to find us all at the table. ‘I didn’t sit you all down,’ he exclaimed angrily.
It was hugely embarrassing and some of the guests started mumbling about getting up again. ‘No, no, you might as well stay where you are,’ he replied huffily.
He sat at the end of the table and swivelled in his chair, so that he almost had his back to everybody, and leaned his head on his arm.
For the rest of the meal he was monosyllabic, sulking because he had lost control of the seating plan. The plates had not even been cleared when suddenly, without saying anything, he just got up and left.
As Sarah had also disappeared by then, we all showed ourselves out…
This sort of behaviour goes far beyond either normal or acceptable, let alone appropriate and productive as befits a leader spending public money on a function.
Two more examples from my career.
I have been told that when he was Chancellor Gordon Brown would not take papers in a sensible, systematic way. Instead policy submissions would be left on a large table outside his office. He would emerge now and then to browse between them, reading those which took his fancy and ignoring others which might sit there forlornly for days and days … and days.
This caused dismay in HM Treasury ranks – how could the national whelk-stall be run properly in such a chaotic way?
Second, as HM Ambassador in Warsaw I was responsible for coordinating visits to the UK by top-level Poles. Maybe I am mistaken, but in my four years at post there was not one occasion when Gordon Brown as Chancellor agreed to meet either a visiting Polish President or Prime Minister, even though the Poles were key allies for achieving many leading UK EU targets which HM Treasury had required and supported.
‘Gordon’ (we were told) was far above that sort of thing, dealing instead with the Big Issues. Or, at least, those big issues which be bothered to read about, from the many accumulating on that groaning Treasury table?
Breathtakingly and selfishly discourteous, or merely banal and irresponsible?
A national embarrassment, one way or the other.
Mind you, in those 2005 Budget negotiations Gordon Brown would have driven a much harder bargain with EU partners on the UK Rebate…