Saturday, 16 July 2011

Any Colour But Brown

When Gordon Brown speaks, the world stops to groan

By Alex Stevenson | Talking Politics – Thu, Jul 14, 2011

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Even on the day parliament completed its expenses rehabilitation, Gordon Brown managed to whip up a maelstrom of partisan hatred.
Brown may not have intended it this way, but his politics has always been one based on bitter resentment. When he was chancellor, wielding the purse-strings over the government for a decade, he was eaten up by jealousy of Tony Blair's premiership. His capacity for bearing a grudge and wreaking terrible revenge could not, after this period, be seriously in doubt. When he finally did make it to No 10, he was eaten up by his inability to win over Rupert Murdoch. He paid the price at the 2010 general election. But there was nothing he could do about it.
This is all by way of setting the scene for his speech to the Commons yesterday, in which he took the opportunity of finally getting his revenge on the Murdoch empire. As you'd expect with Gordon Brown, his sucker punch was a lurching swipe far less effective than he might have hoped.
Brown is not like other former prime ministers. Margaret Thatcher is adored by a close circle of acolytes, but these days keeps herself to herself. John Major enjoys the cricket and rarely ruffles parliamentary life. Tony Blair, who has an irrepressible busybody instinct, keeps himself busy in foreign climes. They know their place - in the corner, with the other elder statesmen.
Not Brown. He took his seat on the opposition backbenches, chuckling with neighbour Thomas Docherty and waiting for his moment. This was only the second time he has addressed the House this parliament. As if making up for lost time, he spoke for a full half-hour, hijacking the debate on whether Murdoch's BSkyB bid was in the public interest.
Its primary target was News International and the broader press, to be sure. But first MPs were treated to a lengthy exposition of his government's arms-length dealings with Murdoch. He was obviously bitter about his portrayal as "the betrayer of Britain", as he put it. He spoke of "sewer" journalism and their alleged links with the "criminal underworld". It would have been much more powerful had he not exposed himself to humour.
"The front-page portrayal of me as 'Dr Evil' the day after the generally accepted success of the G20..." He got no further. The Tory benches howled with laughter at the thought of Mr Brown placing his little finger to his lips. Brown, as he had done a thousand times before from the despatch box, looked a little miffed, but ploughed on.
Brown's attempt to rewrite history was almost Churchillian in its audacity. It was as if the years - well, year - had fallen away. His PMQs contributions had always been a combination of self-justification and loathing of the Tories. They loathed him back, just as they had done before the general election. Had the 2010 poll, the formation of the coalition government, the preposterous notion that Nick Clegg could become deputy prime minister, all been nothing but a dream?
Graham Stuart, one of your more archetypal Tory backbenchers, was the most prominent of those who sought to knock Brown off his perch by perpetually asking Brown to give way. Everyday Commons etiquette requires that backbench MPs take interventions from their colleagues, whether political opponents or allies. Brown obviously took the view this requirement does not apply to former prime ministers. Ignoring the storm of outrage from the thwarted Conservatives, he ploughed doggedly on. Twas ever thus.
Yesterday is already being hailed as the day when parliament completed its expenses rehabilitation. As an institution whose reputation has been battered beyond belief by the culture which grew up around MPs' allowances, it needed a victory like yesterday to reassert itself. For once, politicians united together to defeat an unaccountable power hitherto beyond their reach. It was a special day, a historic one.
All the more odd, then, that this was the day when the clunking fist returned to rile up the Tories once again.

Talking Point

Am I imagining things, or is Welsh nationalism making a bit of a comeback?
13 hours ago · · ·

    • Tony Willicombe It is indeed. Let's hope Plaid take it on board.
      13 hours ago · · 1 person

    • Scott Talkington Watched Torchwood: Miracle Day yesterday and at one point this CIA person says to the Gwen character: "If you're the best England has to offer..." to which Gwen responded: "I'm Welsh!" and kicked her. Pretty funny.
      13 hours ago · · 2 people

    • Rebecca Blaevoet
      HI Scott,
      Welsh Nationalism is big in some circles and irrelevant in others. It
      really depends where you are. I think it's changing from what it looked
      like in the "peintio'r byd yn wyrdd" days but hopefully no less vibrant.
      It's a different wo...See More

      11 hours ago via ·

    • Euros Ap Hywel Personally I don't think it is
      10 hours ago ·

    • Edwyn Parry With most counties in Wales wanting more powers for the Assembly I think it is.
      7 hours ago ·

    • Scott Talkington I guess I wasn't talking so much about serious political nationalism as a kind of increased identification. Perhaps I'm just noticing it, but mainstream authors like Ralph Peter's "Owen Parry" series about a Welsh detective in the American Civil War, and the fantasy author Shephen Lawhead's retelling of the Robin Hood legend as a Welsh hero in the *King Raven* series.
      6 hours ago ·

    • Chris Castle Seperatist Nationalism (note the capital letters) is still largely irrelevant. But nationalism culturally is definately growing. There is a growing sense of pride and independence, and more of a consciousnous that being Welsh is more than just watching the rugby. The Language and the Assembly carry on gaining influence. The country is growing up in many ways.

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