Magazine article The Spectator

Who Is the Chancellor?

Magazine article The Spectator

Who Is the Chancellor?

Article excerpt


By now, of course, the full implications of the Budget will have sunk in and we'll have a clear idea of how much worse off we will be this year. What we won't know is: who is Gordon Brown? This man with the somewhat alarming personality, once described by someone at No. 10 as `psychologically flawed'. There seem to be a number of Gordon Browns judging by a programme on BBC Radio Five Live on Budget day, The Real Gordon Brown, presented by Clive Anderson.

Brown is, it appears, at once dour, secretive, stubborn, inflexible, amusing, sociable, vengeful, loyal, chaotic in his domestic life; at least, according to those who know him. I suppose you can be all these things but it seems rather odd; it might help, though, to strengthen our grip on our wallets. I'm not sure I was much the wiser at the end of the programme, though it contained some useful insights. Anderson began by telling us, `He's a man who's said to have a brain the size of Canada but whose personality, to those who cross him, can be as chilly and unapproachable as the North West Passage.'

Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, saw cunning. Whereas, he said, Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell were regarded as the spinners: `Brown, equally cleverly, has almost come up with an anti-image. He doesn't do anything interesting in public, he's boring in the hope you'll think, here is my bank manager, here is the man to whom I can give my money and it'll be absolutely safe in his hands... The only thing one knows about him in public is that he's dour, he's Scottish and appears to be mean, so conforms to a traditional stereotype.'

Alf Young, political editor of the Glasgow Herald and a friend for 30 years, attributed what he called these `grim epithets' to English prejudice, describing Brown as a `warm, amusing companion'. Alistair Moffat, an Edinburgh University chum and now chairman of Scottish Television, said, `He was a lot of fun ... very witty, loved a party.' Matthew Parris, the columnist and former Tory MP, said Brown looks strong and doesn't care what the House thinks. He sometimes resembles someone who won't engage with other reasonable human beings, he could be mulish. He once heard him in a parliamentary committee refusing to admit that 2.2 was less than 2.3 because he knew that something was going up that he'd said would be going down.

Andrew Rawnsley, author of the revealing book Servants of the People, which exposed government in-fighting, said, `He finds it difficult to conceal his disdain for anyone he doesn't regard as his intellectual equal which, frankly, includes the Prime Minister and the rest of his Cabinet. …

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