Updates down the page
Gordon Brown's speech to the Labour Party Conference was a solid piece of work. His grey matter is clearly in good shape. But I take issue with one part of it. Due the admitted failure (in spite of efforts) to educate and lift from poverty (of spirit as much as circumstances) some millions of our citizens, he regrets the thousands of great books not written, of great symphonies not composed, of great inventions not delivered. I could not disagree more. Rather than adding to the pile of literature churned out daily I suggest more reading of the best that exists from the last 3000 years. Rather than writing more music, I advocate a better appreciation of what is there to be heard, and a better concentration on learning to sing and to play musical instruments well.  As for new inventions, we don't need more, we need a better understanding and control and proper use of those that arrive endlessly on our doorsteps. The education that is required is that to enable people to read and to listen. That might then enable people to write and to speak in a comprehensible and logical fashion or keep quiet until they have something useful to say.

However the core point of the speech, dealt with in a few short sentences, was that neither free markets or state ownership and control, appropriate though they may be in particular circumstances, contain as a formula the exclusive solutions or blueprint for a successful future.  The lessons of the past have been learned, by this chancellor anyway. That, combined with the breadth and depth of experience he has now gained, together with energy, commitment and good health, makes him PM material.

While writing this (he just finished), I listened to some preliminary reviews and comments on his speech by media commentators and interested parties. The only interesting remark was somebody who wondered how many times he could make this speech again before the next General Election. The answer is he may well not have have to very often, since the time Mr Blair chooses to step down will not be chosen to make life difficult for his successor. Apart from that there were no interesting comments on the speech at all. Our media, being populated increasingly by cynics, just seemed to be embarrassed; rather like they are when discussing Kate Moss, since so many involved in the media are either smackheads themselves or dependent on others who are. [My apologies to those to whom this does not, of course, apply].

FEBRUARY 17th 2006
It is time to shake the dust off this Gordon Brown corner now that the media have started to discuss his suitability as the next PM. "The dour Scot", he has been called. Gordon has had the good sense to know that one of the greatest qualities a Chancellor of the Exchequer can have is to talk as little as possible. That goes with the job, and its a job he has taken very seriously. So, he miscalculated with the Pensions and precipitated the crisis due to the stock market crash. That's because none of his treasury advisors foresaw the stock market crash, and that is because they are mainly economists. Economists may know nothing of the science and technology that decides what happens next and so could not see coming what was painfully obvious. Investors failed to realise that being able to reach the whole world did not mean they could all be winners. The market was finite, and furthermore demand has to be backed by wealth, not just bodies. So he chose an option that was flawed for reasons of timing. That was his only really big mistake and he was not alone in making it. he remains the best man to take on the job in a world he has now experienced in some depth and width. I hope the public will have the sense to understand this.

Now we have to deal with those who say it is wrong for Gordon Brown to succeed to the leadership without a challenge. How right they are. Just what do they think the last few years have been about if it was not that? I can't believe that any party has not learned the lessons of recent months. There is nothing more ridiculous than a bunch of guys who are trying to convince the public that their party is a coherent organisation with policies they understand, while at the same time trying to convince the same public that their colleagues at the top of the same party who mount the challenge are confused, or incapable, or too old, or too ambitious. A party with any sense studies the past decade and takes soundings within and outside. They then, unless they are so riven with dissent, jealousy and cross purposes, decide on their next leader. In the case of the Tories, because of the Europhobic element, they could not do this. In the case of the Liberals, because of the unplanned collapse of stout parties, they could not do it either. If the Labour Party wants to emulate this, good luck to them, but I would hardly advise it.

SEPTEMBER 8th 2006
What an incredible mess. There is serious doubt in my mind now if Gordon Brown would make a good PM. He has allowed Blair's openly stated position to be undermined by bogus arguments about foreign and even domestic policy amongst his doolally camp followers, egged on by the media. Boring, pathetic, damaging and counter-productive. There are indeed serious issues to be addressed - but not by rhetoric or postures doomed to failure. The Palestinian situation is the main one as far as foreign policy is concerned. But that is no reason to call for Tony Blair's resignation before the proper time. In an article written for the SUN, http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2006410725,00.html , Brown does not address that issue but writes strongly in favour of Blair's other foreign policy and domestic security issues. This business of allowing idiots, whose support he mistakenly thinks he needs in any election, to undermine the government, is not the stuff of which statesmen are made. I said at the start of these comments that GB was PM material. He has about 24 hrs to prove that now.

SEPT 12th 2006
The chancellor has gone on TV to explain that all of the above fracas was none of his doing. Sorry, that does not impress. He should never have allowed it. He may have succeeded in bringing this farce to a temporary end but he cannot undo the damage. Unfortunately Charles Clarke (who should never have been sacked as Home Sec) has seriously damaged the credibility of GB for a large section of the electorate. Since GB is the candidate still likely to win the Labour leadership contest, however this is organised, he has done the party no favours. That would be no problem if the Conservatives were a serious, coherent party able to take on the role of government, but they are most certainly not, even if they have some very reasonable and likeable people amongst the leadership these days.

I would say one thing in Gordon Brown's defence. He has been accused of being incapable of teamwork, of being a closed in person who works on his own and does not discuss his thinking with other. But the position of Chencellor of the Exchequer is a very difficult one in this era of open government and predatory press. The complexities, dangers and incalculable risks have grown enormously. All in all, the mistakes he has made by not sharing his plans and reasoning in advance have probably been outweighed by the catastrophes avoided by keeping his mouth shut and his thinking private, even round the cabinet table. Think about it.

GB's mistakes, financial or personal, can sometimes be put right, by the man himself. Assumptions about his character failings based on his performance may not be as simple as Charles Clarke, a man who is admittedly superb at explaining his thinking frankly as well as clearly, claims. It remains to be seen.

SEPT 23rd 2006
Over the past few days GB has put these mistakes right as far as I am concerned. They should have been avoided, but let's face it, Gordon's way has been to keep his mouth shut a lot of the time unless he has something new or of importance to say - and that is quite a good modus operandi for a Chancellor. He opened his mouth at the Labour conference today to clear up some important points and no doubt now looks forward to keeping it shut again till needed.

JANUARY 17 2007                    Yes, indeed....but there is a chicken-and-egg problem here

Brown calls for overhaul of UN, World Bank and IMF

· Chancellor says bodies are lagging globalisation
· 'New world order' must serve developing nations

Larry Elliott in Bangalore
Wednesday January 17, 2007
Guardian Unlimited


Urgent and far-reaching reform of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the G7 is needed to make old-fashioned international institutions fit to cope with the “seismic shifts” of globalisation, Gordon Brown said today.

The chancellor used a keynote speech in India to call for fast-growing developing countries to be given a far bigger role as he outlined what is likely to be a central theme of his premiership if, as expected, he replaces Tony Blair as prime minister later this year. In his first major foray into foreign policy this year Mr Brown said the world had moved on since the UN, IMF and World Bank were created at the end of the second world war.

“The post-1945 system of international institutions, built for a world of sheltered economies and just 50 states, is not yet broken but - for a world of 200 states and an open globalisation - urgently in need of modernisation and reform.”

The chancellor, on his first visit to India, paid tribute to the work of Mr Blair on the international stage, with Mr Brown’s aides saying the domestic political message of the theme was to highlight David Cameron’s inexperience in foreign affairs. Mr Brown said he was relaxed about the prime minister’s comment that he expected to still be in Downing Street for the EU summit in late June.

Mr Brown said reform of international institutions was needed to make globalisation work for all. Winning the fight against terrorism meant both a commitment to security and victory in the battle for “hearts and minds”, he said.

Looking back to the end of the cold war with the collapse of communism in 1990, Mr Brown said it had not been foreseen how rapidly the world would change politically and economically via globalisation. “Globalisation requires at its heart what democracy provides best - openness to the flow of ideas, people, capital and goods, the potential of every individual unleashed, and public institutions capable of holding decision makers to account,” he said.

Responding to demands from civil society groups that the stranglehold of rich countries - particularly the United States - on international bodies should be weakened, Mr Brown said there was a “need to make globalisation work for all by building an alliance for economic and social justice and environmental care - an essential element of the new world order - and by comprehensively and on all fronts overcoming the challenge of violent jihadist terrorism.”

Mr Brown said the G7 - the US, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan - should be expanded. “Beginning with the UK presidency (in 2005), India has been in attendance at meetings of G7 finance ministers and as part of the G8 plus 5 group has attended the G8. It is time to formally recognise on a more consistent and regular basis the reality of this emerging new world order.

“Together and in the same spirit we should focus on modernisation of the United Nations, so that it has the right role for the modern world, not least as an effective peacemaker and peacekeeper.” Mr Brown commended India for being the third biggest provider of UN peacekeepers and called on other countries to share the burden.

America has exerted particularly strong influence over the fund and bank, but the chancellor said they could not be effective unless modernised - “the IMF to ensure the stability of the whole world economy, with its primary role no longer to manage balance of payments crises but on crisis prevention through the surveillance of our economies.

“There is now a case for bringing together some of the work of the IMF and the World Bank and even some of the work of the UN.

“And as a bank for development, the World Bank should have a focus for the first time on energy security and environmental care.”

MARCH 21st 2007
Former head Whitehall mandarins Turnbull and Wall have described Gordon Brown as Stalinist in behaviour, ruthless and secretive, not brooking discussion on policies he had set his mind to. While I know there have been quite a few great civil servants and many in the ranks who have been expert and dedicated to public service, in my view it has been those at the head of the civil service who have been responsible for the utter failure over the latter half of the 20th century to get to grips with the domestic policies that every other European country has at least attempted to tackle and some succeeded. We should be grateful to have seen the back of the Turnbulls and the Butlers and their ilk. The Chancellor ignored their remarks (which were given off the record to a newspaper) apart from a joke at the start of his budget speech. The budget itself was sensible but not exactly breathtaking. I think he reckoned the electorate was a bit fragile so tried to reassure them. No great green budget then.

JUNE 24th 2007
Today, Gordon Brown took over as Leader of the Labour Party, and Harriet Harman was installed as deputy leader of the Labour Party and also chairman. It remains to be seen who GB will choose as Deputy PM. It can't do any harm to have a woman in those posts though I do remember thinking after Thatcher stepped down that it might be some time before we wanted another woman PM. On the other hand I have always thought Margaret Beckett was one of the clearest thinkers and speakers in politics, hugely underrated by most commentators. Harman is a bit of a rambling speaker compared to her and I don't detect and great insight. She is undoubtedly serious and consciencious and may now have the experience to do the job. Revelations in the Independent that after the last election Blair toyed with the idea of sacking Brown as Chancellor carry no importance for Blair, Brown, the Labour Party or the Country. He didn't do it.

JUNE 27th 2007
Gordon Brown takes over as PM (I was a bit premature on the 24th!). The BBC commentator seems surprised at the length of time GB is spending with the Queen at Buck House. They should be more surprised that he doesn't spend a few hours there. There is much to discuss for a 'listening PM'. The Queen is a source of information and opinions from a great number of current sources as well as her long experience.  The longer he spends there the more people can have confidence that wires are not going to get crossed on some of the most difficult issues this country has faced. The exchange of information between the head of state and the new Prime Minister is critical.

JUNE 28th 2007
GB has picked his cabinet. Pretty good. Only Des Browne keeps his old job - which he was good at, despite the hiccup. Presumably David Miliband has been made Foreign Secretary in order to have someone capable of explaining foreign policy to the domestic audience, since even the Tory party pretend not to understand it as far as the EU is concerned.

But there is something strange here. There is a lack of people to stand up to GB. Beckett has gone, Hewitt has gone, Reid has gone, Clarke long gone, only Straw and Darling look as if they will not automatically tow a line. So we have cabinet government but....it looks as though its task will be to deliver Gordon's agenda, not to have a debate about it. But since lack of enough delivery, not policy, has been the gripe, maybe that's the plan.

As for the appointment of the 'outsiders', Digby Jones, Lord Stevens, etc. that all seems perfectly legitimate to me. Horses for courses.

JULY 14th 2007
So far, so good. The only complaint I can detect as having any validity is that GB is inclined to announce initiatives that have already been announced once or twice before. I think in fairness it should be pointed out that most of these initiatives were interrupted by matters of overriding importance not of any government's choosing. That they need to be re-energised and re-announced is not surprising. As for announcing the proposed contents of the Queen's Speech in advance, that is only common sense if there is to be no early general general election but some changes in government policy which require debate in parliament.  So far, Gordon Brown is coming over as strong on logic and substance and not too bothered with presentation. This is probably what people want. The media will of course try to interpret in their special media way rather than take anything at face value, but then music critics can never just shut up and listen either.

On the home front, the resumption after many years of home building by councils is an idea whose time has definitely come. The reason is we now have the technology to build modern, ecologically designed houses and councils through economy of scale can do this at a very much lower cost per unit.

SEPTEMBER 4th 2007
So we are told that 'the honeymoon period' may be over for Gordon Brown, on the basis of some opinion polls. Let us face it, a hefty percentage of this country do not understand what is going on or why any policy, domestic or foreign, civil or military, is appropriate, essential, optional, desirable, difficult or disastrous. I do not think Gordon was ever interested in a honeymoon, he is going to try to make a fist of the marriage of public and policy and, through its application, encourage those responsible for moving and shaking this country, to pull it through difficult times.  Naturally a strike on the London Underground such as we have today, lasting till Friday, is not going to help with the state of mind or the economy, but the short strike by the prison staff was to my mind more serious and could have been avoided. Both sides were at fault there. The PM is fit for purpose, but maybe his team are not yet confident enough to show initiative without asking permission, particularly when the bureaucracy behind the communication paralysis is linked to economic rules put in place by the PM when he was chancellor. Joined up government has to be flexible at the joints, not arthritically rigid.

With regard to the tube strike,

The RMT rail union says it wants guarantees that the collapse [of Metronet] will not lead to job losses or pension cuts.

TfL and Mayor of London Ken Livingstone say they have already given such guarantees.

if that is the case, what is the reason for the strike, other than a Bob Crow ego trip? It is a bit worrying that anyone would want to join him on that, so are they all subject to deliberate misinformation? I think the answer is contained in the second sentence of the first paragraph of today's entry, which leads on to the question: WHY? The failure to communicate is even greater than the failure to educate. People choose their own media by which to form their opinions and actions; and the worst of the media, in this country, is indeed likely to mis-inform. There can be no doubt that many are in financial difficulty and this strike reflects anger, but the strikers have chosen the wrong target. Neither the travelling public or the underground railway that provides the striker's not insignificant wages are to blame for their troubles.

SEPTEMBER 24th 2007
Gordon Brown's first address to the Labour Party Conference as Prime Minister took place today an was well received. The media seemed preoccupied with whether or not he would go for an election this year or early next year, but this speculation is of absolutely no interest to anyone. There is no reason for him to call an election this year or next, but obviously he would do it if there was any business that needed to be done which required a new manifesto commitment. That's all there is to be said on that. Events, therefore, could decide a premature election, but little else.

SEPTEMBER 26th 2007
Listening to the drivel talked by Ed Balls is enough to turn anyone off politics for life. This man will say anything if he thinks it is what his particular audience wants to hear. But Yesterday he talked about Gordon Brown having to decide if it was a greater gamble to go for an election now, or not to go for it now. The public could not give a monkeys uncle for an election right now and if one is called most people wouldn't bother to vote We have a PM and a government and the public will let him know if they want an election before his allotted time is up. If he was to call one now when they do not want one he would lose a lot of centre ground support. No doubt Balls and some in certain constituencies would like to take advantage of a bit of a wave, but if Gordon falls for that he is not the man most people hope he is.

OCTOBER 6th 2007
The was never a chance Gordon would have called an election - but he should have made that clear earlier.

Brown rules out autumn election

Mr Brown's decision ends weeks of speculation
Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown has said he will not call a general election this autumn.

The PM said he wanted a chance to show the country his "vision for change" and to develop his policies further.

He said an election could have been held based on "competency" in dealing with crises, but he wanted to develop housing, health and education.

Conservative leader David Cameron said Mr Brown had shown "great weakness and indecision", and had made a "humiliating retreat".

Opposition leaders had challenged Mr Brown to end uncertainty over whether he would call an election after mounting speculation in recent weeks.

'Huge difference'

Mr Brown, speaking exclusively to the BBC's Andrew Marr on Saturday in Downing Street, said: "I'll not be calling an election. I have a vision for change in Britain and I want to show people how in government we're implementing it

He's been trying to spin his way into a general election campaign and now he's had to make a humiliating retreat
David Cameron,
Conservative leader
Cameron reaction

"Over the summer months we've had to deal with crises, we've had to deal with foot-and-mouth, with terrorism, with floods, we had financial crises.

"Yes, we could have had an election on competence and I hope people would have understood we have acted competently, but what I want to do is show people the vision we have for the future of this country in housing, health and education.

"And I want the chance in the next phase of my premiership to develop and show people the policies that are going to make a huge difference and make a change in the whole country itself," he added.

The prime minister was asked by Andrew Marr whether there would be no election for a long time to come.

Mr Brown said: "I think it's very unlikely that this will happen in the next period.

"I think the important thing is that we get on with the business of change in this country because people do want change and I'm responding to that demand."

Our correspondent said: "I would say in effect, unless something extraordinary happens, he is ruling out a general election either this year or in 2008."

He should have stated his intentions, clearly and unequivocally
Sir Menzies Campbell
Liberal Democrat leader
Campbell reaction

Speculation had been mounting that the prime minister would call a November election after changes to Parliamentary announcements, such as a statement on Iraq next week.

Mr Cameron said: "The reason the prime minister has cancelled this election is that the Conservative Party is making the arguments about the changes this country needs. People are responding very positively to our proposals.

"The prime minister has shown great weakness and indecision.

"It's quite clear he's not been focussed on running the country these last few months, he's been trying to spin his way into a general election campaign and now he's had to make a humiliating retreat."

Marginal seats

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said the prime minister's decision showed "a loss of nerve".

"He should have stated his intentions, clearly and unequivocally. The inevitable conclusion is that he's been acting in the interests of the Labour Party and not in the interests of the country."

This is a considerable embarrassment for Gordon Brown
BBC political editor Nick Robinson

The two dates that were most widely touted for an election had been 1 and 8 November.

Speculation had grown when the government also moved forward plans to outline its Comprehensive Spending Review - which sets long-term spending plans - and pre-Budget report to Tuesday, rather than late October.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson suggested the main reason for not calling a snap election would be an unfavourable poll of marginal seats showing a swing to Tories.

A poll to be published by Sunday's News of the World puts the Tories ahead by 6% in marginal seats, with the party overall at 44% against Labour's 38%.

Translated into a general election, it would mean a hung Parliament with Labour holding 306 seats and the Tories 246.

'Verdict' election

Our political editor says the prime minister wants to win with a mandate for real change, but does not think he could do that with an early election, and consequently may not call an election until 2009.

Own goal to Gordon. Great victory to Cameron
Ian, Wimborne

He says Mr Brown will now plump for a "verdict election" - one based on his actual performance, not on how people think he may do in the future.

"This will be a day, a weekend and probably a week of red faces, of awkward headlines and embarrassment for those around Gordon Brown," he said.

The decision would damage the morale of the Labour Party, he added.

'Not realistic'

The BBC's head of political research, David Cowling, said the speculation had had to be stopped one way or another.

"The polls post the Conservative conference have been very good for the Conservatives, the poll that's coming out in marginal seats is very good for them, so it's all drifting in the wrong direction and it's not the sort of moment I think at which a prime minister could turn to his troops and say: 'Well the tide's against us - forward to victory!'

"It wasn't a realistic scenario and he's now having to put a stop on it."

Other recent opinion polls have suggested that Labour's lead over the Conservatives has fallen.

An ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper on Friday suggested the Conservatives and Labour were level - on 38% - compared with a 7% lead for Labour one month ago.

The poll surveyed 1,008 adults on Wednesday and Thursday, after Mr Cameron's address to the Conservative conference in Blackpool.

And the results of an earlier YouGov survey for Channel 4 News - which interviewed 1,741 people, also on Wednesday and Thursday - suggested the government, on 40%, was four points ahead of the Tories compared with a lead of 11 points last week.

Gordon Brown's interview with Andrew Marr can be seen on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One at 0900 BST on Sunday. The programme will be streamed on the BBC News website.

OCTOBER 10th 2007
A bit of classic knockabout in the Commons today at PM's Question Time. The PM took a few blows, but it was all utterly inconsequential as the decisions he has taken, which were at issue, are beyond criticism. A referendum on the EU Constitution is impossible as there is non. A referendum on the Treaty would be impossible as it is not a singular item. To call an election would have been so unpopular that it would have actually lost votes, and the policies he is accused of stealing (e.g. on taxing planes rather than passengers) were the right policies anyway. So PM's question time as far as Cameron's input is concerned was a waste of time, the very thing Cameron had sworn to change.

OCTOBER 11th 2007
We are subjected to endless replays in sound and vision of David Cameron saying Gordon Brown treats the British public as fools. On the latest evidence:
Some 86% of men are expected to be overweight within 15 years and 70% of women within 20 years, Professor Klim McPherson of Oxford University and Tim Marsh of the National Heart Foundation predict.
Gordon Brown is certainly right. The idea of giving the British public a referendum on anything, until we have purged or passed beyond the current generations overwhelmed by so many who can't read, write, speak or think, would seem to me the height of folly or pure political opportunism.

NOVEMBER 14th 2007
Anyone who listened today to PM's Question time and the National Security Statement and the questions session that followed must now, if they did not before, realise that Gordon Brown is the best post WWII PM we are likely to see in our lifetime. How anyone could imagine any of the time-wasting airheads on the opposition taking his place in the next 10 years at this critical time in history is beyond my understanding. At the moment, the top post-war PM is TB, followed by Thatcher who did at least a few things right which were important but would have been rightly chucked out earlier had it not been for the Falklands war.

That is not to say the the financial situation left by his long stint as chancellor is rosy. We have indeed had some stability, but this has been achieved by very particular methods. The strain has been taken where it could be, but that has been achieved by living in a state of denial on the personal debt front. Whereas the French (for instance) have racked up a massive national debt, the UK has allowed more than half of its citizens to get into serious debt - something France has not allowed. Prudence on the national debt also gave way at the end in the UK as far as the national debt is concerned though the claim is that the expenditure is 'investment' and therefore not breaking the 'golden rule'. This is technically true. The fact remains that the situation is only not a a disaster because other 'western' nations have been fcing the same sort of problems or their own different versions of them.

So we have in Brown a person who is extremely able to deal with the terrible problems ahead, some of his own choosing (rather than his own making), as it was a case of choosing which particular version of the 21st century's opening financial gambit to play.

NOVEMBER 25th 2007
The critics of the PM are on a role with all the recent 'events'. Of course he can be brought down any time the public turn against him. Rupert Murdoch just wants to be on the winning side, and if the public are turned against GB by the media first stirring the pot and then pouring the contents over the PM, he has no hope. At least 50% of the UK public will turn against anyone if they are told the reason they are £30,000 in debt is his fault, not their own. It makes then feel so much better. Self esteem is the buzzword of the decade.

NOVEMBER 27th 2007
Gordon Brown is struggling to square his ignorance of Mr Abrahams with his credibility as leader of his party.
He told reporters he had had "no knowledge" of more than £600,000 of donations from David Abrahams, which could "not be justified"."The money was not lawfully declared so it will be returned," he said. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7114327.stm
My own view is that it has become impossible for UK political parties to obtain funding, as making donations in the glare of publicity is such an unattractive option to either individuals or companies, who may have no special wish to support a particular party but just wish to support the democratic process. Even those who do support a particular part may not wish to broadcast their preference. After all the ballot is suposed to be secret so that we can keep our political feelings and prefereces at the time, which may change, private.

So if the Labour Party is hauled over the coals by he public it can only be because their party is the one that enforced transparency on all, and the charge is therefore hypocrisy rather than fraud. Once again the business of government, which is what all sensible eletors want done, is interrupted by a squabble between the parties. The press love it. For most of the public it is a crashing bore. On the other hand, if Mr Abraham has somehow been buying planning favours, that is quite another matter. But it may be hard to find a connection even if there is one. It seems to be outside the comprehension of journalists that Mr Abraham just wants to use his money to support politics and the Labour Party. Unless more of our citizens do support our political parties democracy can fail.

NOVEMBER 28th 2007
I agree with Roy Hattersley that these events have absolutely no bearing on the competence of the PM or his ability to be a first rate holder of the office. I find Cameron and his abusive prattle in the House of Commins absolutely pathetic. He should be put back in nappies and given a dummy to suck on.

DECEMBER 4th 2007
Stephen Sackur is an accomplished and intelligent BBC interviewer but in today's "Hard Talk" Roy Hattersley won every point and several times has Sackur completely lost for words. I never thought Hattersley would be my hero but today is certainly is. He demolished the charges of incompetence that Sackur was attempting, for reasons I do not understand, to justify. In fact he demolished almost every point Sackur was trying to make, other than the ones he agreed with, whch were fair enough.

DECEMBER 23rd 2007
The press commentators are busy writing Gordon Brown's political obituaries. I hope he does not get too depressed by this. Gordon is a poor tactician, it is true, but he has a grasp of reality that his political opponents do not possess in even small traces. We are coming up to perilous times and I don't  want to see any of them involved in the government of the UK at any price. They can by all means pick up on GB's errors and make him correct them where possible, but that's as far as it safe to have them engaged in matters they have little real understanding of.

JANUARY 24th 2008
As the economic chickens come home, the commentators and the opposition are desperate to be the first to hold Gordon responsible not only for the economic chickens but what they claim is his failure to show leadership in handling them. Personally I think the government's handling of the Northern Rock affair has been about right. Peter Hain's big cockup of his campaign funds is a loser, it has to be said.  I can't really blame him for trying to win the post he was after, and in marketing terms it was not a lot of money and it was, as far as we know, contributed by people who thought he would do a good job, This does not help Brown. Portillo says his cabinet is hopelessly weak, but John Hutton does not sound weak to me and who is strong in the other parties? They make noise, but what do they know? Very little. What is absolutely certain is if there are things Brown could have done or not done in the last 5 years, that he should have/have not done, he would have been opposed utterly and ruthlessly by the other parties and the press. That is what makes the current song and dance so pathetically hypocritical.

APRIL 14th 2008
I find the crash in Brown's rating due to the onset of recession combined with the credit crunch understandable, as such a combination has never happened before in living memory. But we ten have to accept that the previous era of steady UK expansion with stable low interest rates had never happened before either. George Brown had the choice of how to ride the last wave: join the Euro or go it alone. He had to go it alone as the City would not accept the Euro and Industry chickened out of the Euro and the Eurosceptics in the country would not support entry. Brown therefore had no choice but to ride the wave as UK Ltd, and enterprise with diminishing manufacturing but an increasing banking, investment, services and property sector. There is no good berating him now for not following a policy the self-interest of key elements of UK society would allow parliament, whatever government was in power, to follow.

So all those now baying for blood and panicking over the financial crisis deserve nothing but my utter contempt, which I hereby deliver with knobs on. Brown is not going to bother to spin this one, so it would be quite possible for a combination of our press and asinine pblic and political commentators to bring him down. Thie idea of having that ass Cameron and baby Hague and co in charge is to ridiculous to think about and Clegg, though he means well and is right about a few things, does still not understand life, the universe and arithmetic.

That said, the budget has made GB very unpopular as it helped few and hit some who were really not ready for it. He will be accused of being out of touch, and of no having prepared the public for what is happening. That is true.

APRIL 24th 2008
The troubles Gordon Brown has had with the abolition of the 10p income tax band were unfortunately inevitable from the day he himself introduced it. It seemed like a good idea at the time. This was it:

  9 March 1999


The Chancellor today unveiled a three year package to reform the
structure of income tax and meet the Government's commitments to
improve work incentives and help both pensioners and families with

A new 10 pence rate of tax will be introduced for the new tax year,
which begins on 6 April.  The 10p rate will be the lowest rate of
income tax this country has seen for more than 35 years, and will
ensure that people on lower pay keep more of what they earn.  And
from April 2000, the basic rate of income tax will also be cut by a
penny, taking it to 22p, the lowest it has been for almost 70 years.
Together, these changes will improve work incentives by making work

The problem is that this tax rate would apply to only a limited range of taxpayers, some of whom would be transient but some more permanent, and the relief it afforded would soon become built in to their finances, their expectations and needs. When later on Gordon, as Chancellor, introduced many other measures to help the least well off and also reduced the basic rate of income tax further to 20 pence in the pound, he realisd that the 10p band should be and had to be removed. Had Alistair Darling tried in the last budget to copmpensate all those who would find themselves worse off because of the removal of the 10p band, though better off because of all the other measures over the last 10 years, the complexity would have been such as to cause perplexity and even derision amongst critics. Let's face it, when Gordon introduced the 10p band he gave a hostage to fortune, one he could have got away with had it not been for the global financial collapse coinciding with its removal. But for that he might even have been able to lift the tax threshold further.

As it is, the bubble that hid the flaw in not just Gordon's economics but every other western country has thankfully burst. It's going to hurt, but there you go. It is really not interesting listening to Cameron or even Cable wittering on. Gordon has agreed to find a way to help those who have lost out who are in a category where it is evident they are disproportionate losers. I think Frank Field di quite a good job, and for once the BBC's Nick Robinson has got his head round the subject and reported and commented with some insight on Radio 4.
Gordon has indeed been hoist by his own petard*, but that's life. Did he deserve it? Not really, but it will have been good for him and we will all benefit.
News details: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7364344.stm

* Note: a 'petard' is an explosive device. The word 'hoist' here means 'blown up'. Media blatherers please note, you cannot hoist anyone ON a petard.

 MAY 4th 2008
The mathematics behind the local authority election results are inescapable. A Labour majority vote depends on three elements:
1. Their traditional left-wing voters
2. Some of the floating voter that goes for any party that suit's their immediate needs best
3. The poorest in the community who trust and assume that Labour is more on their side than others
4. Previous Conservative voters who abandoned that party as hopelessly divided, out of date and therefore unable to function.

Gordon Brown, after years as Chancellor, had got out of the habit of 'appealing' to any particular part of the electorate. He had got into the business of world politics and Britain as a whole as a player. The prosperity of the nation was his aim as he genuinely and correctly saw that as the only way to help all in society. But he lost site of the vulnerable at a time of critical importance. Giscard d'Estaing made the same mistake years back in France. Gordon avoided boom and bust by allowing a steady boom and hiding the bust in the nation's roll-over balance sheets and the credit fed by the banks based on global growth.

So how does the maths work out? Gordon made some enemies amongst (1) above. To compensate he would have needed success with 2, 3 and 4. But he lost a lot of (2) by clobbering their automobile costs, dropped a lot of (3) with his careless 10p tax range change just at the time when they were clobbered by rises in costs they could not avoid (Council tax, heating, food etc), and this at the moment when for the first time in years the Conservatives had a leader who could take back a considerable number of (4) above.

Add up the probable numbers of those who would therefore either not vote or vote for other than Labour and you have the answer.

So what should GB do? Just get on with what he was doing, actually. His mistakes have, ironically, come from trying to appeal to electors and win at the political game, rather like Blair did.  Unfortunately this is what half the public seem to want, but he has tripped up doing it. He should not play their game. Of course he is head of a party, and the careers of all his MPs hangs in the balance, but running the country and appealing to an electorate systematically confused by the the media and by many of the supporters of all three parties are probably mutually exclusive at this time.

What should Cameron do? Sit down with his party thinkers and decide on their approach to the EU. When they have that agreed they could be fit to form an alternative government, after the next election should they win it. But they will be faced with the same problem that will face any political leader: the population is hopelessly divided on every issue, confused on every issue and ignorant of many realities. But there are some realities the public are very close to with respect to their perilous financial position and the lack of security in their lives.

Gordon Brown is less confused than any PM since Churchill or Atlee, but he did not realise how desperate some of the electorate are. Neither did Tony Blair, but people were hoping Brown would understand and act. He might have done if the credit bubble had not blown up in his face. Now, he needs to be more ingenious and imaginative than any PM in the las 50 years if he is to continue to help the aspiring and positive elements, help the needy, and at the same time avoid wasting public money on empire-building bureaucrats or throwing money at the undeserving to buy their silence.

MAY 5th 2008    GOOD GRIEF!
I think Gordon has still not got the message. He has now dithered on the excess rubbish tax. Although the pilot scheme is to go ahead he has allowed news to leak out that he is against it. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7384394.stm

Gordon, dear boy, those who throw out an excessive amount of rubbish every week are NOT in need of help. They are over-consumers and wasters and you should tax them till it hurts with taxes they cannot escape till they learn how to behave. Of course a lot of these people are your supporters, unfortunately, as you have in all good conscience helped the economy to make them rich. Unfortunately many of these people have no idea how to behave when they come off the breadline.

I thought you were the man to govern this country properly without fear or favour. New labour has had the support of many previous Conservative voters and many Liberals, in fact all those who wanted to get the Tories out of the way so we could move forward. Amongst these were traditional labour voters as well.. But New Labour is a One Nation party or it is nothing. It must allow the modest poor to live simply without being buggered about, it must allow the aspiring movers and shakers to build and run businesses and institutions. I mus be non-doctrinaire and privatise and nationalise wisely as required, devoid of dogma. But it must not ever seek the votes of those who are not aware what is facing this country, Europe and the world if we do not stop arsing about. It is your duty to take the right decisions whether it wins Labour the next election or not and the right decision is to tax excess rubbish HEAVILY.

The only way Gordon and New Labour can win the next election is to do the right thing. That alone will bring in a majority of votes, from some of every constituency, voting across all parties and precedents. It's as simple as that. This paragraph is an amber light. Don't make me go to red.

MAY 7th 2008
I am having to face up to an awful truth. While I had reservations about Gordon Brown I have always been a great supporter and an admirer of his style apart from the albeit serious exceptional instances noted in this file. But when he says this:

Gordon Brown has marked the 60th anniversary of the creation of Israel, calling it one of the "greatest achievements" of the 20th Century.

Speaking at Finchley Synagogue last night, the PM said that Israel has faced "immense threats" since its creation. He called for a future where the "children of Abraham" would live together in peace as part of the same extended family.

Then I have to say that in my view racial isolationism is the curse of global humanity, the idea of racial purity is the philosopy of Nazism, the common identity of race and religion is the final abomination and the state of Israel is founded on all of the above. The invention of the modern state of Israel in the heart of a region inhabited by rival Semites, Arabs, Iranians and other Muslims was the biggest mistake of the 20th Century. It is a mistake we have to live with and that is the best that can possibly be said of it. I can only assume Gordon reckons Labour needs the money.

MAY 13th 2008
This looks like the only sensible way to set out the 10 tax-band removal problem.

Basic rate taxpayers to get £120 .

Chancellor Alistair Darling addresses MPs

Chancellor Alistair Darling has put up the personal tax allowance by £600 - meaning anyone earning up to £40,835 will gain £120 this year.

His £2.7bn tax cut for this year came as part of measures to help those hit by the axing of the 10p tax rate.

He told MPs he would lower the level at which 40p tax is paid - so higher earners did not gain from the change.

MAY 23rd 2008
The Crewe/Nantwich by-election results are hardly surprising. Labour ran a rotten campaign and many people are furious about the 10p tax mess. However the idea that Cameron and his team are better equipped to run the country at this time does not stack up. Gordon Brown gets criticised for good judgement as well as bad. Meeting the Dalai Llama at Lambeth Palace was a diplomatic gesture at a time when good relations with China are in the interest of all Chinese and all Tibetans.

JUNE 9th 2008
I cannot agree with the proposal to ban the carriage of all knives. Gordon Brown by associating himself personally with initiative risks his credibility as PM. Every young person should carry a penknife or Leatherman or Swiss Army knife as a basic tool. They should know how to use it* or accept that they are totally dependent on those who do. Parents, teachers and politicians who are worried about stabbings should turn their attention to youths who are not amenable to discipline or reason. They should have their privileges removed. At school they should have to pass through a metal detector and be frisked by uniformed police 3 times a day. They would very soon lose their aura of 'respect' when everyone else at school had permission to carry a knife and they were not.

In my youth, every single person at school carried a knife, usually a penknife. They were used for sharpening pencils, cutting notches, cutting string, carving where required, cutting paper cleanly (along folds or scoring with the point), cleaning fingernails and a hundred other things. The alternative is to have pencil sharpeners and scissors and other tools permanently in one's pocket which is ridiculous. A pointed blade is not always needed but sometimes it is. Making all the points blunt would not stop any sociopathic youth from sticking it into another anyway.

The puropose of education is to prepare people for responsibility. That means giving them training in potentially dangerous tools and how to handle them. Those who exhibit sociopathic behaviour need to be discovered, treated and if untreatable restricted in their privileges. The basis of civilisation is discrimination on grounds of behaviour - not on other grounds.

JUNE 22nd 2008

JULY 25th 2008
Yes.... the only possible response to the success of Alex Salmond and his crew, and the bleatings of Cameron, is this (below).
I am sure Mr Salmond knows how to please a lot of voters, and Cameron knows how to sell his wares. Brown is no salesman and never could be and has made some poor tactical judgments but he has a grasp of the realities and how to deal with them. There is no reason why the SNP should not be a majority in the Scottish Parliament, it is only the idea of independence that is daft.

I'll get on with job, says Brown

Gordon Brown has promised to "get on with the job" of dealing with the economy, following Labour's defeat in the Glasgow East by-election.

He told the BBC the government had to "listen and hear people's concerns" over rising food and energy costs.

The Scottish National Party claimed the Glasgow East result was "off the Richter scale", after overturning a Labour majority of 13,507.

Conservative leader David Cameron urged Mr Brown to call a general election.

"I think we need change in this country, and that's how change should come about," said Mr Cameron.

Mr Brown is now meeting trade union leaders and activists to discuss Labour's policies for the next general election.

'We understand'

His speech at the National Policy Forum in Warwick is expected at 1200 BST and is being seen as a key moment in Mr Brown's efforts to turn round party morale.

Ahead of his address, Mr Brown said: "I think what people want to know is that we understand and we hear their concerns.

"People are worried every time they go to the petrol station for fuel and worry about the costs... These are concerns that are happening in every other country.

"My whole focus and whole task is to take people through difficult times..."


Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play.

He added: "We've got to listen and hear people's concerns and that's exactly what we are doing."

Mr Brown also said: "I'm getting on with the job. My task is getting on with the job. It's exactly what people want me to do."

The Glasgow East seat became vacant with the resignation on health grounds of Labour's David Marshall.

It has long been regarded as one of Labour's safest seats - but the SNP won it by 365 votes, achieving a swing of 22.54% from Labour.

It follows the recent loss of the Crewe and Nantwich seat, the London mayoralty and poor results in local elections.

'Cost of living'

John Mason, the SNP's winning candidate in Glasgow East, said: "Three weeks ago the SNP predicted a political earthquake.

"This SNP victory is not just a political earthquake; it is off the Richter scale. It is an epic win and the tremors will be felt all the way to Downing Street."

Will it add to the pressure on Gordon Brown? Of course
Brian Taylor
Political editor, BBC Scotland

Earlier, Scottish Secretary Des Browne told BBC Radio 4's Today programme people do not vote for divided parties and Labour must unite behind Mr Brown.

He said said the loss was "directly related to the cost of living" and said "we need to do more of the sorts of things that we've been doing".

"People do not think that the steps we are taking at the moment are adequately responding to the circumstances that they feel," Mr Browne said..

"We need to build on what we have been doing - and we planned to do that in any event - but we also need to hold our nerve and hold the course on the longer-term issues."

Union demands

There was also a "Scottish context" to the defeat, with Labour currently lacking a leader in Scotland and having lost control of the country's parliament, he added.

At the Warwick conference, the unions, which now account for the vast majority of Labour Party funding, are reportedly putting about 100 demands on issues ranging from new rights for workers to free school meals for all primary school pupils.

The three-day forum will be considering new ideas and amendments to current policies.

It brings together 55 Constituency Labour Parties and 30 trade unions, as well as other socialist movements.

It divides policy into six areas - Britain in the world; communities; crime and justice; education; health; prosperity.

JULY 29th 2008
There are calls for:
  • Brown to retire
  • A change in policy (whatever that means)
  • A windfall tax on energy suppliers

All very bad ideas except that policy always adapts to circumstances. I trust the PM will keep his eyes and ears open and carry on. He has made a few bad tactical political errors over the past year or two but so what? These are trivial compared to the real tasks.

JULY 31st 2008
Bob Marshall-Andrews says Brown must sack David Miliband because of his article in the Guardian defending New Labour without mentioning Gordon Brown. Marshall-Andrews brain is remarkable in its inability to imagine or simulate the workings of any other brain, which explains why he could never be Foreign Secretary. Personally I would have thought Gordon would be relieved to know he had confident lieutenants such as Miliband who can defend a party and policy without finding it necessary to hang onto apron strings. Marshall-Andrews still lives in Ancient Rome and paranoia rules his mind, the perennial backbench conspirator who loves to speak his mind in safety and appear the soul of honesty and wisdom. Can we never move on?

SEPTEMBER 6th 2008
There have been no entries here for some time as thee has been nothing to comment about. The critics of Brown have been idiotic, whether within his party or outside it, not that he has been without fault. He has been wrong to accuse Russia of aggression in Georgia, but Miliband has been even worse. I had until now approved of Miliband and his recent behaviour is disappointing. Brown's silence on most other matters, apart from what he has actually had to say, I find appropriate and admirable. Thee is no point in getting involved with a lot of people whose understanding of the current global economic situation is nil and of the domestic situation personal only.

This file now ends as commentary will continue in the file THE END OF LABOUR.   That title does not actually predict the end of Labour Government, but to avoid that Gordon has to get the idiots in his own party into line and then to get the country to understand what he is talking about. I think he will do the first, but the second depends on the electorate and I have very limited confidence in them given our political press and their need to appear as the readers' champion and the government the only enemy they can find.