I’m not buying the Clever Conspiracy line over Gordon Brown messing up the No strategy. He has mined key initiatives carefully crafted over the months which have had to be held together in the face of glaring inconsistency and sometimes ridicule. He has left the Better Together leadership facing awkward questions and created a fissure in the united front for Unionism.
It is true that Labour have struggled to make working with the Tories sellable and that there has been a need to show Labour owning its part of the campaign – something Johann has failed to do. Therefore a figure like Brown who holds a mystical power over some quarters of the wider movement is a logical choice to head off into the undergrowth on his own mission with a tattered standard to rally the faithful.
Or it would be logical – if he knew how to conduct himself as part of a team effort. The man is incapable of participating without dominating. The only good ideas are Gordon’s ideas and even when others take his ideas and they fail – like floating the prospect of an early election when he became PM – they are no longer Gordon’s. That one was put down to Dougie Alexander who was then pushed out the tent.
No one – as in no one – knows better than the mighty intellect, even Treasury officials. They warned him of the consequences of abolishing the 10p tax rate but Gordon pushed on regardless and paid a punishing price. But there is never any sense of remorse or self-criticism allowing him to morph from the man who destroyed final salary pensions to saviour of your pension in the Union without a blush.
When things went wrong he turned on his own, including Alastair, and his simmering feud with Blair was the stuff of Greek tragedy, seriously undermining the very workings of government, never mind its morale, until he manufactured a cack-handed coup to lever the elected Prime Minister out of his way. The result of allowing Gordon to run the show was horribly demonstrated when he became a figure of fun under the pressure of leadership.
We are now witnessing a version of the same phenomenon. Gordon gets involved… Gordon takes over…Gordon rewrites the script…Gordon undermines…Gordon destroys from within.
He may indeed bring some core Labour voters with him but look what he is risking – the entire strategy of Better Together is built on scaring Scots witless by wheeling up big guns from London to lecture us on what they will and wont allow us to do as they are our masters. It is insulting of course, but that’s the chosen route. The attempt to deny us use of the pound was the epitome of this approach, organised by Alastair himself. To criticise that is to criticise the leadership and Darling personally. You can detect a whiff of revenge in Brown’s public denunciation.
Last night Darling was placed in the position of distancing himself from Brown’s view on television – which is admitting on air that key people on his own side think he got it wrong. That will hurt. You can guarantee it will be one of the selling points of Alastair’s How I Won the Union book deal under a chapter heading: Brown nearly ruined the campaign.
Can you imagine the fury in Downing Street when they heard he had backed the Cameron/Salmond televised debate…that had gone to sleep and there was a generally weary acceptance that Cameron had ducked out. Now of course, every time Cameron has a mic under his nose he’ll get ‘Brown says you should debate…why not?’
Better Together do not want Salmond bigged up to the same size in Scots’ mind as Cameron…don’t want him revealing how un-Scottish Cameron’s instincts are and don’t want Scots thinking this is Scotland against posh English boy – which do I prefer? So Gordon has put it right back centre stage and will no doubt also be offering himself as debater-in-chief.
There may be no escape from this now as Gordon isn’t someone you can appeal to for understanding. He’s out there now, unleashed like Godzilla, tearing up the ground and taking no prisoners. There will now be a section of BT whose job is to monitor his activities, avoid diary clashes, keep him and Alastair apart, and devise media lines to cover up the discord. (I should imagine Yes might ask when we will see Alastair and Gordon together in the campaign). It isn’t just at general elections where the public don’t like internal splits. If they think there is a divided leadership in the No campaign, that they are just jostling egos and that’s why they want the Union – to keep them in power – they will recoil and be more receptive to Yes arguments. The No side tried unsuccessfully to paint Yes as squabbling SNP and others and now find their own side undermined in the same way.
If Brown carries on like this, it could be the unforeseen element that changes the game. Telling him to stop will only enrage him further. It’s time to reach for the elephant gun.by