How did former Labour leader, chancellor of the Exchequer and prime minister Gordon Brown convince himself in 1992 that the New Labour path was the way for democratic socialism? It does not need a play by Kevin Toolis or a detailed analysis by Gerry Hassan to provide the answer (Perspective, 3 August).
After the 1992 general election, Labour was faced with a grim reality: it had lost four elections in a row. It was unable to convince voters in key marginal seats that it had the right policy on taxation. Its image was one that was essentially statist. It was not seen to be on the side of aspiration, the entrepreneur, self-help, effective economic management.
Brown – ever the analyst – saw the need for change because focus groups, opinion polls, even casual discussions with voters were telling him it was needed. Thus the need for Labour to make out the case for social justice without damaging the material ambitions of the majority (the essence of New Labour). That meant no increases in income tax, control of public expenditure, reform of the public services.
The tragedy for Gordon Brown was that he could never accept that his key role in all this was as a No2 – an effective chancellor.
I have often wondered if fate would have treated him differently if he had accepted a spell as foreign secretary. That might have prepared him better for his eventual encounter with leadership.
As it was, his stubborn determination to hold only the two most senior posts in the country was eventually to cause his downfall; perhaps the classic case of a person not accepting what he is.
Gordon Brown spent the vast majority of his time as chancellor plotting against prime minister Tony Blair.
Ably assisted by Ed Balls and Damien McBride and others, the energy expended by Mr Brown and his “aides” in doing down Mr Blair clearly should instead have been directed towards attending to the matters of the office he held and against his political opponents.
In Gerry Hassan’s analysis of Brown, this aspect is barely mentioned and yet it was probably the most important factor of all in assessing his character. As always, Mr Hassan seems more obsessed in the Scottish aspects when a much wider view is required to get a fair assessment.
Reading the book The End of the Party by Andrew Rawnsley was a revelation for me. After all Mr Brown’s efforts and the backstabbing and nastiness involved in reaching the highest office, I expected infinitely more from him. It took me some time to realise that becoming prime minister was in itself the end for Gordon Brown, not the beginning.