An Intellectual and a Moderniser Who Showed Leadership Right to the End
MacShane, Denis, The Independent (London, England)
Gordon Brown's career
As Gordon Brown bowed his neck to say goodbye to his political life just a hundred yards from Whitehall's Banqueting House yesterday, Andrew Marvell's words on the decapitation of Charles I seemed to hang in the cold SW1 air: "He nothing common did, or mean, upon that memorable scene."
On Brown's face there was a wan smile, as if he knew that his announcement would suddenly make him a prophet in his own land and that the renunciation of his office would abruptly reveal a man once again about to be popular. In contrast to Tony Blair, who was putsched out of office by Brown's acolytes and has since lost his traction with the Labour Party in going on to make squillions, Gordon Brown is about to become a much-liked politician.
Brown breathes politics. The astute timing of his move is designed to stop the establishment-blessed march of David Cameron into No 10. The Lib Dems now have what Nick Clegg asked for - the departure of Brown. They know that on electoral reform and Europe, Labour under Brown and any possible successor are natural partners rather than the rabid Europhobes around William Hague and Liam Fox.
Cameron's offer to the Lib Dems was based entirely on a southern, English-based politics. The other nations of the our kingdom do not exist for modern Conservatism. All the clever Scottish Tories, like Malcolm Rifkind or Michael Gove, have had to find English seats, and the best Tory writers, like Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, or Bruce Anderson of this newspaper (both Scotsmen), are stars of London salons who have lost contact with the wider Britain. They are so obsessed with denouncing the spectre of Europe they failed to notice they were losing touch with their own country - especially that British nation where the monarch spends so much of her time.
Brown has kept Labour a British party and gone out of his way to promote a younger generation of English Labour MPs. He has now handed the torch to a new generation and left William Hague and Lord Ashcroft looking already like yesterday's men. Of course the arithmetic is tricky. But Labour should look hard at creating a broad alliance. In the US Congress, it takes just one vote to pass or defeat a law. The Tories are short of 20 votes. Canada is governed by a heterogeneous grouping of parties. Why should anyone object to Nick Clegg becoming Foreign Secretary? At least he could speak to European partners in their own language. Vince Cable and Alistair Darling at the Treasury would calm markets. Chris Huhne at the Home Office and senior MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland attending Cabinet would show the nation that a team of co- workers rather than a single domineering party is in charge.
Voters have made clear they are fed up with 20th-century politics, in which one party and one leader have hegemonic power over the British state and its 700bn expenditure. That is why they stopped David Cameron in his tracks. Conservatives remain a 20th- century party unable to grasp the need for compromise, coalition and contacts between different political currents.
Brown is also the quintessential 20th-century politician. But as one of the few proper intellectuals in politics - who sensibly disguised his learning, as the British public prefer a football fan as Prime Minister to someone who can discourse on Kondratiev as well as Keynes - he knows his history. Labour has always been held back when an old guard tries to stay in control of the party after a defeat. The swiftest renewal of a party is when it allows a new generation to come through quickly. Brown's record can now be examined fairly, not through the prism of hate headlines in the press. …