Opinion: With every week that passes, Brown’s regime becomes more and more Nixonian

As the Green-gate affair rumbles along in the background, it is hard for those of us who remember early 1970s America to ignore the parallel: an increasingly controlling Executive, fears for personal liberty – and a man at the top with serious personality dysfunction.

Richard Nixon and Gordon Brown do share striking similarities of circumstance and character.

They had puritanical backgrounds with domineering fathers, were intellectual prodigies, intensely private – and awkward in company and public. Both gave the impression of being somehow ‘not quite right’. The 1960 anti-Nixon slogan ‘Would you buy a used car from this Man?’ seemed to fit immediately; and I’ve also now lost count of the number of women who find Brown ‘odd’.

Both were manipulative in their cultivation of ‘poor me’: Nixon the small-town farmboy who ‘never had it easy like the Kennedys’, and Brown the young man agonising about potentially lost sight (a fact the politician kept to himself until he needed a sympathetic leadership image). Dicky wrote about ‘Five Crises’, and Gordon continues to insist he is the best man in crises. Nixon had his Kennedy to envy, and Brown has his Blair to hate: ‘it came naturally to them, but I’ve had to work at it’ is also a shared view – displaying an obvious desire to be seen as noble and heroic.

Fellow sufferers from indecisive depression, they instinctively disappeared from the stage when blame was being assigned. They expected people to accept ridiculous explanations of dubious behaviour, and had associates who insisted they were very nice really – but swore obscenely at aides (or screamed at secretaries) in private.

The observations may perhaps be harsh, but there is something abnormally untrustworthy in the dissembling, shifty nature of these men – an ethical doubt borne out in both cases by shadows and clouds after every episode – and strangely locked cupboards where nobody may go.

Yet Brown is the man whose people are about to slip GCHQ a cool £12 billion to monitor our every website visit, email and mobile phone call. This is Dick Nixon paranoia with the new miracle technology ingredient: an attempt to use Islamism in the same way a crooked President used Vietnam .

We are the Liberal Democrats. All around me I hear soi-disant ‘realists’ saying ‘the personal liberty question doesn’t play well – the voters aren’t interested’. And I say, to Hell with the focus groups: we need to give a lead. And we need to do it far more aggressively than we are at present.

Ever since the Watergate Affair, every political scandal has become the lazy journalist’s excuse to slap ‘gate’on the end. But the arrest of Tory MP Damian Green may well at last merit that suffix.

The emerging facts have been giving me a curious case of deja vu. Say what you like, this smells bad for New Labour – and my hack’s instinct says there is rarely smell without excrement. We have a Home Secretary denying all knowledge of an operation known to others with less reason to know; we have a Leader of the House arranging secret meetings with a Speaker, overruling that Speaker with Executive subterfuge and then a Chief Whip using the familiar despicable pressures to get the vote out and defeat Opposition motions for full enclosure. If ever a person sat in utter contempt of the House of Commons, then that was Harriet Harman last week, grinning inanely as both Opposition Parties poured doubt, scorn and dismay all over her disgraceful performance….but got nowhere.

This is a government led by a man who thinks he has a Higher Authority – an arrogant and obsessively driven man who always thinks he knows best – and has established form as a man who plays the national security card as an airbrush to make his historical errors disappear. The Home Office has plenty to cover up – including (obviously) mendacious cock-ups involving people in the country who shouldn’t be here.

Last Friday, a small piece on page two of the Financial Times pointed up the increasing Conservative frustration with Gordon Brown’s persistent deferral of a promise to brief the Opposition prior to any election. The pledge (allegedly made nine months ago) said that the process in relation to some of the key fiscal and economic factors would begin on January 4th 2009. There is no sign at all of this happening, and this in turn suggests two obvious hypotheses: one, there is yet more smelly stuff the Government doesn’t want the Opposition to know; and two, Gordon plans a snap election during which most of the damning facts are unavailable to both electorate and Opposition.

Classic Nixon in 1972.

Like it or not, on current form the Lib Dems will not have enough powerful things to say in such an election. It seems to me our tax plans have confused people: the fairness distinction has been lost in the meltdown noise. We need to add this to a ‘little man’s champion’ stance. But above all, we need to hammer at the issue of defending those same ordinary folk against creeping totalitarianism.

One of our tasks, I think, should be getting the former New Labour voter to bite very hard on this undeniable reality: had Damian Green been the recipient of leaks from his Deep Throat a few years from now, GCHQ would have known about it instantly – and we would never have known about the content at all.

* John Ward is the owner and editor of www.notbornyesterday.org, a satire and advice site dedicated to promoting new ideas, better ethics and true reform of our constitution, economic model, and community policy objectives.

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  • David Morton 18th Dec '08 - 4:19am

    I know its the panto season but I’m not sure I buy some of this. the point about the guys eye sight is really quite unpleasent. Why shouldn’t someone “agonise” over 50% vision los and the facts were well known long before he became PM.

    the later part of the article is spot on but slightly disfigred by some of the ad hominem psycobabble.

    1. All governments are authoritarian.

    2. Governments drawn from authoritiarian political traditions are particulalry authoritarian.

    3. Modern technology is fire from the gods for Authoritarian governments.

    4. ergo we need vigelence to keep pace with technological change.

    Its the reason i remain bewildered about the lack of demanding a quid pro quo for allowing the davis “Liberty” By Election to go ahead.

  • I too don’t buy any of this – even as a Brown hater. Historically incorrect and overly selective. Comparisons such as this are utterly worthless.

  • David Heigham 18th Dec '08 - 1:56pm

    As often in the past, I agree with the different John Ward

    I had great hopes of Richard Nixon when he has won his second term. He was a fundamentally dishonest man, but all he then had to go for was using his unquestioned ability to leave the USA a great legacy. Then we found that his paranoia had got criminally out of hand in the process of getting re-elected.

    The difference, and it is important, is that Gordon Brown strikes me as a fundamentally honest man. I had real hope that his paranoia would fade once Blair went; for before then he had a lot to be paranoid about. Instead, his paranoia appears to have worsened. His potential to be a great Prime Minister has, I fear, disappeared in the storms of his anxieties.

    His honesty, however, is very like Tony Blair’s. Both combine the subjective feeling of honest virtue with a vast capacity for self deception. (Self-deception was never a Nixon trait). Unlike Blair, I think that Brown has some sense that the does not really know himself. But that is a major feeder to Brown’s sense of being perpetually under threat; it aggravates his paranoia.

    Gordon Brown is not Nixon re-born. He will never perpetrate the arrant dishonesty that permeated Watergate. But at least until the general election is over, Gordon Brown is arguably more dangerous than Nixon. He will seek and use his Prime Ministerial powers to find ostensibly legal ways attack his ‘evil’ opponents.

  • Nixon does have one or two others things in common with Brown:

    (1) Neither had/has the remotest interest in sex (for reproduction only, in both cases).

    (2) Both were/are servants of elites who found/find them gauche and yucky and had no respect for them in private.

    Now let’s look at the differences:

    (1) Nixon was a drunk. Brown is always sober.

    (2) Nixon had a serious perspiration problem. Brown doesn’t.

    (3) Nixon was a compromise candidate, acceptable to both the Rockefeller faction and the emerging small town right. Brown was the undisputed heir.

    (4) Nixon was a ham actor with a cloyingly oleaginous manner. Brown is totally wooden.

    (5) Nixon sabotaged the Paris Peace Talks in order to win the 1968 Presidential Election. Brown hasn’t committed any war crimes – yet.

    (6) Nixon made liberal use of terms like “nigger” and “Jew boy” (when talking to his staff). Brown doesn’t.

    (7) Nixon beat his wife. Brown doesn’t.

  • ‘historical inaccuracies’, as you call them, here are a few more…

    there is no proven evidence of a link between the police and brown over the green affair. the plumbers were nixon’s men.

    in terms of briefing oppositions. the democrats, of course, were the majority party in congress in 1972, will total access to security. economic briefings. as mcgoven would have had.

    nixon in fact had a relatively liberal domestic policy – go back and check it – of course you can find arguments against this, but overall he was more ted heath than thatcher. nixon vastly increased funding to the great society programmes, improved social welfare and even in areas of foreign policy he was surprisingly liberal, eg china. Nixon also built the coalition between the working classes, unions and ethnic voters which became known as reagan democrats.

    as for gchq – well you have to put that in the context of theday, Nixon never had the challenge of international terror. he was though not widely trusted or liked by the pentagon generals or fbi.

    the conventional view is that nixon was similar to disraeli, not brown.

    also there is no evidence that nixon was a wife beater and equally i guess that brown isn’t.

    i don’t really care if you think this is ‘good input’ or not. just some corrections needed to be made. and i could go on

  • I didn’t expect you to iisten.

    why blog stuff if you can’t take a discussion afterwards?

    and ‘historical inaccuracies’ – you used it at 1.17

    perhaps you shouldn’t call people naive, muddled or not caring about other’s input.

    You make sure fairly distasteful and frankly nasty comments. when challenged over them, you just can’t take it and resort to abuse. Shame really.

  • David Morton 19th Dec '08 - 3:54am

    2. ” lack of proof isn’t innocence “.

    Physican Heal Thyself ?

  • now who is being childish.

    and who made you the judge of what input is great or not?

    lets have a proper debate based on the facts please and not abuse from JW

  • ah but the fact based debated is rubbished by JW, hardly liberal

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