Journalism is the first draft of history, not the last. For a good example it’s worth turning to the first few months of Gordon Brown’s regime, which were described almost universally as a brilliant example of political leadership – as the new PM tackled floods and whatever else. In retrospect this was a rather generous verdict.
And according to the journalistic narrative, Ed Miliband has had a catastrophic start to 2012. Just awful. The Labour leader is up to his armpits and flailing, such is his predicament. Such is the verdict from many of our most learned commentators of late. Read more
Reading accounts of the deal agreed between Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel last night to impose new rules on EU countries to guarantee fiscal discipline, you might think the two countries were uniting to save the Eurozone from its more profligate members.
But which two countries first broke the rule that deficits should not go above 3 per cent of GDP? It was France and Germany, back in 2003. What’s more, the two then united to make sure that they wouldn’t face sanctions for doing so – effectively destroying the rules (known as the “growth and stability pact”) altogether.
What’s more, they were supported in this action by the UK (otherwise known as the country that like to lecture others on fiscal discipline). Gordon Brown was chancellor at the time. Read more
The string of allegations made by the Guardian about the ways in which News International reporters and investigators targeted Gordon Brown are extraordinary. They include:
- Brown and his wife’s Sarah’s names appearing in Glenn Mulcaire’s notebook;
- the hacking of Brown’s accountant’s computers to obtain personal financial information;
- the conning of lawyers at top City firm Allen & Overy to hand over personal legal details;
- the blagging of Abbey National employee’s to get Brown’s bank account details.
Tonight’s Telegraph splash is in one aspect sensational: how on earth did they get hold of Ed Balls’ private correspondence? (UPDATE: He left the documents in his old desk at the Department of Education. Sir Gus O’Donnell is set to order an inquiry into the leak, according to Politicshome.)
In another, it is less so: The letters show that the Brownites were agitating to wrest Tony Blair’s hands from the keys to 10 Downing Street six years ago, if not earlier; this we already knew. Not least because it was a very public Brownite coup by half a dozen government aides, led by Tom Watson, who finally held the gun to Blair’s head and forced him to put a timeline on his departure. The poisonous relationships at the heart of New Labour has been well documented by Andrew Rawnsley and countless others. Read more
The Guardian yesterday ran a fascinating story on their front page about how Sir Gus O’Donnell, head of the civil service, had “blocked” an attempt by Gordon Brown to hold a judicial review into phone hacking. We followed up the story on ft.com this morning.
Here are a few extra details which did not make the final cut and may be of interest: Read more
Alan Johnson heavily criticised the New Year rise in VAT from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent this morning, warning it would cost jobs and could jeopardise the economic recovery.
Is this responsible opposition? A Tory source points out that Labour would have almost certainly have done the same thing – or at least considered it very strongly. Read more
Gordon Brown’s love of pre-dawn emails is legendary. But I don’t think anyone imagined they were about mosquito nets. Here’s the passage from the US embassy cable:
The prime minister is personally engaged on assistance issues, Dinham [a senior civil servant] noted. It is not unusual, he said, for DFID officials to receive emails sent before dawn from the prime minister, inquiring about bed net programs to combat malaria, or sharing his latest idea on education programs. Read more
It has been widely noted that David Cameron pinched a soundbite from Gordon Brown in his Guildhall speech on Monday night. Hard-headed internationalism, it seems, is good enough for two British prime ministers. Read more
George W. Bush’s bombastic return to the world stage has reminded me of my favourite Bush anecdote, which for various reasons we couldn’t publish at the time. Some of the witnesses still dine out on it.
The venue was the Oval Office. A group of British dignitaries, including Gordon Brown, were paying a visit. It was at the height of the 2008 presidential election campaign, not long after Bush publicly endorsed John McCain as his successor. Read more
George Osborne’s cut to child benefit has triggered a bit of a debate over welfare handouts and procreation.
This is usually a bit of a no-go-area for politicians. But Jeremy Hunt has been brave enough to suggest that long-term benefit claimants should “take responsibility” for the number of children they have. Fraser Nelson, meanwhile, has dug up some numbers on the 2,500 incapacity benefit claimants with 6 or more kids.
This all reminded me of one of my favourite Gordon Brown stories. There were about 45,000 extra children born as a result of Brown’s largesse with benefits, according to economic research. It is a whole generation of “Brown babies” identified by the Institute of Fiscal Studies.
People appear to have taken his fiscal stimulus literally. Big increases in tax credits and income support payments pushed the birth rate to its highest level since 1974. The “price” of an extra child fell for many low income families along with the financial penalty of staying at home as a mother. Working class had more confidence to have children — or at least have them earlier. Read more
It is, of course, entirely co-incidental that Gordon Brown has announced his plans for the future today: just hours after Tony Blair, the yin to his yang, published his autobiography. (Which is apparently flying off the shelves).
Brown will be doing lots of charity stuff – for free – including education work for Africa. The rather sober note struck by Mr Brown is surely not a deliberate attempt to remind the public that he, unlike some, is not a jet-setting millionaire?
He says he will be doing public speaking in the USA, but this will be to fund his charitable work. He has set up something called the Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown to pay for staffing costs.
(Incidentally, we asked Ed Balls if his old mentor could come back to the shadow cabinet doing international development; not in a million years was the gist of his response.)
Here is the Press Association:
Gordon Brown announced his plans for the coming months today, including working to increase global access to education and boosting internet use in Africa. The former prime minister will join the Global Campaign for Education’s High Level Panel on Education for All and will work to secure economic justice in Read more
You have to admire Ed Balls for his persistence. On this morning’s Today programme he suggested that the New Labour battles between the Brown and Blair camps were merely a spot of “creative tension” that led to “great achievements.”
Bear in mind that there were vicious screaming matches between the two men and periods where they were barely on speaking terms – creating dysfunction at the top of the government machine. Read more