Brown fights fires at home while on U.S. trip

April 18, 2008

brown.jpgFor Gordon Brown on his U.S. trip it has been a case of when the cat is away the mice will play. While Brown was at the White House working to shore up the “special relationship” with President George W. Bush, rebellion broke out in Labour ranks at home.

First, Labour peer Lord Desai launched an extraordinary attack on Brown, telling the Evening Standard: “Gordon Brown was put on earth to remind people how good Tony Blair was.”

Then it emerged that a junior member of Brown’s government, Angela Smith, was threatening to resign over Brown’s abolition of the 10 pence tax rate — a move that many Labour MPs fear will hit the low-paid and hurt Labour in May 1 local elections.

Smith’s on-off resignation was played out in real time on the 24-hour news channels. And just as Brown was about to give a news conference with Bush at the White House, news that Smith had told colleagues she was ready to quit broke.

The threat evidently caused consternation among Brown aides. A resignation of even such a junior minister when Brown was striding the world stage would have been hugely embarrassing.

There was silence from Smith’s office for several hours as, behind the scenes, Brown got on the phone to Smith to persuade her to change her mind. Then Smith issued a statement saying:”Resignation of my post … is not envisaged.”

So have the rumblings of discontent over Brown been blown out of proportion during a quiet news week? Or does it signal that his 10-month-old premiership is in irreversible decline?

When parliament reopens on Monday, Brown faces a revolt among Labour backbenchers over the removal of the 10 pence tax rate and over Brown’s controversial plans to extend the time terrorism suspects may be held from 28 to 42 days.

Brown may be forced to compromise on both issues if he is to avoid a humiliating parliamentary defeat.

More than 60 MPs, many of them Labour, have signed a parliamentary motion urging the government to change the tax system to make sure the low-paid pay less tax.

Brown’s poll numbers are terrible. A Sunday Times poll this week showed the collapse in Brown’s personal popularity ratings was worse even than the drop suffered by Neville Chamberlain after Hitler’s invasion of Norway in 1940.

The Conservatives opened a 16-point gap over Labour in that poll, and worryingly for the government, are now consistently scoring above the 40 percent of the vote mark that could give them a breakthrough at the next general election.

To make matters worse for Brown the credit crunch has tarnished the reputation for economic competence that was his main trump card. A Financial Times poll this week showed Brown was less trusted than any other major western European leader in being able to steer his country through the financial whirlwind.

And Brown can’t seem to buy any luck at the moment. After chafing in Blair’s shadow during a decade of prosperity, the sub-prime crisis broke within months of Brown taking power, bringing down Northern Rock and sowing worries about job losses and falling house prices.

Brown even chose to visit the United States the same week that Pope Benedict was attracting huge crowds there, pushing the little known British leader into the shade.

The slide in their party’s fortunes has unsettled Labour politicians, some of whom are beginning to pine for Blair’s sure touch which won Labour three elections.

Lord Desai said Labour was on track for a “bad result” in the May 1 local elections. If Labour’s Ken Livingstone loses the London mayoral race, “it would be absolutely traumatic for the party,” he said.

Desai was quoted as saying that many senior figures in the party were already thinking about who will succeed Brown. However, most experts dismiss talk of a leadership
challenge any time soon.

Brown can claim some success from his U.S. trip. He appears to have firmed up the initially shaky relationship he struck up with Bush. And he scored an undisputed diplomatic triumph by arranging meetings with all three U.S. presidential candidates.

It was a sign of the importance they place on the U.S. relationship with Britain that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain found space in their busy schedules for strictlyequal, 45-minute meetings with Brown.

Brown must hope he can carry as much weight with his own restive backbenchers.


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I feel that Gordon Brown is in a position that is above him.
He doesnt have the carisma to bring the public on side, nor does he inspire much faith in his abilities.
If he is representing the party, it looks as though we need to look to a new party for leadership (SOON)

Posted by mark schuchart | Report as abusive

Unelected, unwanted and his departure will be unlamented.
Best that he goes before he gets pushed.

Posted by Mike T | Report as abusive

Why is the news media not investigating the source of the £50billion fund announced by the UK government to help bail out local banks?

Is it linked to this article? 15/britain.china.ap/index.html

Why is no one reporting this in the UK? Are we that afraid of China’s increasing importance on the world stage that we prefer only to report negative stuff?

If China is helping to stabilise the UK economy, isn’t this newsworthy?

Posted by Sophia Nadur | Report as abusive

There is not neccesarily anything wrong with gordon brown’s abilities. We must not be so critical, but give him a chance to prove himself. No body can become a solid, trusted leader overnight, these things take time.(more than 10 months anyway) In addition we must remember that none of us could do the job any better, if we could then we would be prime minister!

Sometimes wecan be so unappreciative of our leaders and the responsibilty resting their shoulders.

Posted by tim cocking | Report as abusive

In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king. In the UK we have the one-eyed, characterless, humourless, personalityless, bad-tempered, gargoyle-like Gordon Brown-Bean. But not for long. This man has been over-promoted. He he was not brave enough to face the electorate when he might lose, so he will have to face us and be routed. Two years will soon slip away, and in the meantime he will remain a figure of derision, scorn and ridicule.

Posted by Neil | Report as abusive

Tim Cocking appears to live in cloud cuckoo land. The electoral system in this country allows a political party to gain power having received only 27 per cent of the vote. Not democracy, just an early 19th century electoral system. As to Gordon Brown-Bean being a “stolid trusted leader”, this man lurked in the shadow of a charismatic figure for ten years, but even then the public were treated to outbreaks of petulance, sulkiness and ill-temper when he failed to get his way. As to courage, he wasn’t even brave enough to face the electorate when there was a possibility he might win. This man has been over-promoted, and became his Party leader after a squalid little deal with the charismatic, but discredited, Blair. He has done nothing to earn respect and, having become a figure of contempt, derision, ridicule and scorn, it is unlikely he will be able to shake off this reputation. Certainly, he has neither the character nor personality to make any difference and there is no doubt his Party should ditch him sooner than later as he is leading them to electoral catastrophe.

Posted by Neil | Report as abusive

Brown is no more a legitimate leader of Britain than that sub-human freak is in Zimbabwe.

Brown is an enemy of democracy.

In Britain people lament the lack of interest in elections and wonder why no one votes (well 1 in 3 do):

The reason is simple – elections do not matter if a man can grab the position of Prime Minister without a competitive election by either the people or parliament.

The Labour Party is solely responsible for this un-democratic act. They will surely pay a high price.

Brown is the most hated usurper since Prince John several hundred years ago. He is tolerated as Prime Minister as many people enjoy the fun of humiliating a man in power.

However this is doing huge damage to Britain. If we are seen to allow this man to represent us, he makes us all look stupid, weak and impotent.

Posted by Zen | Report as abusive

Mr Browne and Mr Darling need to be sacked these people are only out for their gains and not for the people of the this once great land. All they are interested in is to tax the british public to the hilt. Allowing the price of fuel to go up on a daily bases in a word every 24 hours it goes up by 3p a time. Then he & Darling do away the 10p rate of tax to pay for the MP’S pay rise?
NO MATTER WHO GOES IN TO NUMBER 10 THAY WIL DO THE SAME. Britain is as good as dead. Instead of a labour goverment we need a LORD PROTECTOR SOMEONE LIKE CROMWELL COMES TO MIND?

Posted by Noel J | Report as abusive