The problem with Gordon’s speech was that it was so Gordon #lab09

Living in London and (attempting) to use the Tube most days, it’s deeply ironic the legacy of Gordon Brown’s political career which I am reminded of most often – his insistence on forcing through the botched part-privatisation of the Tube – is something quite at odds with his overall record.

For his overall record is not of dogged determination to bring in as quickly as possible a radical policy come what may, but instead it is one of ducking the big tough choices and looking to attempt to play clever with the details instead. Not so much a case of fiddling while Rome burns but a case of introducing a long-term strategic review of temperature units while Rome burns.

And so it was again with his big speech this afternoon. Look at the policy highlights (headings from a MORI briefing – thank you MORI):

  • A referendum on electoral reform – but, as Stephen’s pointed out, it’s only a watered down version of the manifesto promise he stood on 12 years ago.
  • The power to recall MPs – but hedged in with such high hurdles and limited circumstances in which it can be used that it’s barely a power at all.
  • New national investment corporation – yes! more bodies! more vision statements! more strategic plans!
  • More free childcare for poor families – except as James Landale put it, “What he didn’t say is that it won’t happen for five years and that it will be funded by cutting childcare tax subsidies for those who are a little better off”. In other words, hide the price, delay the implementation but hope the headlines turn out fine first.
  • ID cards – sort of, perhaps, partially not quite going to be forced on everyone, as Alex pointed out.
  • New local powers to limit 24 hour drink licenses – in other words, “we introduced a policy, we forced it on everyone, so we’ll shift the buck to someone else to sort out what to do instead”. (Even if good news by the back door in that it means local councils will get more power to pick what suits in their area.)
  • Tighten up the immigration system – remind me, how many times have we heard that before?
  • Introduce law to require 0.7% of GDP to go on foreign aid – sounds good, doesn’t it? But it won’t actually direct a penny more to international aid. And what do you think a Government will do during a time of financial crunch? Sticking through a repeal will hardly be more arduous than putting up with criticism during a public spending round when a figure is cut.
  • Supervised networks for 16 and 17 years olds – the one clear, substantive new policy. Just a shame it’s ‘gulags for slags’ with an uncanny echo of the BNP.

In other words, the typical Brown mix of authoritarianism, sleight of hand, reannouncements and love of creating new bodies and new rules.

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Gordon Brown is the leading Conservative of British politics. It’s not just that he ducks the tough choices, it’s that he’s a natural Conservative.

    His every instinct is minimum change. Take electoral reform, caving in to pressure for those in the Labour Party who see self-interest in reform, the best he can do is offer a referendum on alternative vote sometime never.
    (swayed no doubt by polls saying people are more likely to vote Labour with a referendum pledge)

    He could have introduced AV now. No need for a referendum, it’s not a Proportional system. He could have put Cameron on the spot, pledging to reverse greater choice for voters. He could have had Labour candidates in many parts of the UK benefiting from transfers from the Greens, Lib Dems, Nationalists, even UKIP and BNP.

    He could have had the vision to accept a “Government of all the talents” and one that represents “the many not the
    few” might have to be drawn from more than one party.

  • Martin Kinsella 3rd Oct '09 - 7:39pm

    Good article, well written.

    Mouse, of course Brown is a Conservative, he is one of the architects of New Labour. That is his political instinct whatever Social Democratic noises he makes now for the purpose of saving his worthless skin.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Peter Martin
    On the question of Infection Fatality Rate: We know the official UK death toll is 125,000 We know that 4.2 million people have tested positive. So the kno...
  • Katharine Pindar
    We do back fairness, of course, Colin, but one group's idea of it is contrary to another - just look at the proposed 1% rise in nurses' pay. Others say, shouldn...
  • Brad Barrows
    Ed will have to make a positive case for Scotland staying part of the UK rather than just trying to use scare tactics such as equating independence with Brexit ...
  • matt
    Oop should have been @Marco not @Glenn...
  • Colin Brown
    I wonder if we'd be better served by using the concept of fairness rather than equality? We cannot be equal. We can aspire to being fair....
Thu 11th Mar 2021