Gordon Brown’s letter to Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Head of the Civil Service has seven paragraphs. Five of them begin with “I”.
Unpopular leaders realise that their enemies are all around them and ultimately they feel threatened by every one – even those whose careers they enhanced and who they feel should owe them allegiance. When they reach that inevitable stage, they are well and truly in the arms of the hired help – the advisors. And it is no surprise to learn that most advisors are just as unpopular as their masters.
Blair’s hitman and “friend” was Alistair Campbell. Brown had McCain.
A good dictator eventually makes enemies of all those close to him. The really big trouble starts when even the advisors are alienated. The hired help does not have to like its master – but it helps.
By nature, Brown is an analytical -he has that in common with ex-Accountant-CEO, Sir Fred Goodwin. When dealing with analyticals under pressure, those close soon discover a dark, sinister and nasty side. Ask any senior ex-RBS executive.
Analyticals under pressure become not-only nasty but “personal”. They are not the most likeable individuals in the first place but if you intend to put them under pressure, make sure that you take a tin hat and full body armour – otherwise you will get hurt. Luckily, unlike the “expressives” like Obama, analyticals do not have a strong need to be liked. They are natural loners and find it difficult to interact. When there is trouble, they will look to solve matters by either using or creating rules and regulations. Hence Brown’s letter to Gus O’Donnell and hence Brown’s liking and reliance on enquiries and Commissions. Analyticals paint with a very limited palette.
Brown already knows that he will lose the next General Election and that there is a more than 50% probability that there will be a challenge to his rather flaky leadership. G20? What G20? Brown’s only long -term political future may lie in a Ken “Lazarus” Clarke-type resurrection. Otherwise he is finished. He certainly is not capable of doing the Blair thing and going into showbiz.
McBride’s emails suggesting some “jolly japes” aimed at Cameron and Osborne had more than a whiff of Senior Common Room than any seriously heavy political substance. Therefore, Brown should have smiled a wry smile (he does those well) , apologised unreservedly and then hung McBride out to dry. The focus would then have been on McBride and not on Brown.
Cameron and Osborne have a very good reason to feel outraged because in spite of the occasional endearing lapse into neo-Abbott and Costello, they are a pair of thoroughly decent blokes. McBride has done them them both a great political favour: they are now firmly occupying the moral high-ground, they are offended and Brown will not say “Sorry chaps – it won’t happen again.”
You could not plan or pay for a better image boost.
Back to the Gus O’Donnell letter and all those “I”s. They suggest two things – the first is that Brown ‘s ego has taken a bashing and he is attempting to reassert himself. Secondly, the letter did not have the benefit of an advisors red pen prior to release. Brown is on his own.
Cameron knows exactly how these Spin-Advisors (SPADS) work – he used to be one under Margaret Thatcher. Remember, at the end of her reign she ended up feeling as lonely and as isolated as Brown is feeling today.
This coming Wednesday, PMQs should be the best yet. Cameron will look serious, vulnerable and wounded. Brown will make his weekly error of indulging in pointless muck-raking through Tory recent history – and Cameron will score yet more points.
Brown will continue to perfect the unique skill that he has developed over the last two years by driving yet more nails into his own coffin.
p.s. McBride wanted embarrasing photos. Here’s one: