Brown puts cat amongst Lib Dem pigeons…

Gordon Brown’s abortive attempt to invite senior Lib Dems into his new cabinet reads almost as much as an aggressive attempt to take the Lib Dems out of the reckoning in the next election than a serious suggestion. Though it has clearly grabbed him some headlines. So far as Paddy Ashdown taking the rapidly cooling hotseat in Northern Ireland is concerned, hadn’t he heard about Paddy’s chairing of the strategic parade’s review? Or does he even care?

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  • Belfast Gonzo

    The flip side of the story is that it marks the end of Peter Hain’s career, hopefully. Since he is highly unlikely to get the Deputy Leadership position, and Brown’s offer means he wants someone else in Northern Ireland, Mr Hain will be scrabbling around for something else in a week’s time!

  • There were a lot of rumours of some kind of Brown-Campbell deal when the Lib Dems refused to enter an SNP coalition in Holyrood last month.

    If there was any understanding on those lines, I’d say Brown’s blown it over the past few days.

  • If there was an understanding on those lines, Campbell would have lasted about two days as party leader after it became public.

  • I can just see Lord Trimble as SoS for NI lol

  • Tom Griffin @ 04:15 PM:

    There are several curious dimensions to this story. One, for example, is hinted in today’s [London] Times. The usually trite Hugo Rifkind “People” column has this:
    A day of mystery at The Guardian, which started the day with a much debated “scoop” about Lib Dems sitting in a Brown Cabinet, bylined merely “Staff Reporter”. Although big fans of transparency, the paper refuses to confirm rumours that the “Staff Reporter” was a very senior member of staff indeed. Most odd. Who grauds the Grauniad?

    I read that to imply that editor Alan Rusbridger may be the author. Where, though, was the source?

    Second, no commentator in full possession of an intellect would seriously believe that Brown will rattle the cages too much. There are 349 other MPs all watching Brown, and not many of them are discounting the magic ‘phone call to offer a cabinet seat, a desk, a job as a bag-carrier … Any interloper coming between the backbencher and raw meat of ambition does so at pain of death by a thousand leaks. As of today, Brown’s biggest weapon is just that patronage. The minute he has filled his ministry, he has 250 disappointed souls to assuage.

    However, he might, just might have got away with Ashdown as pontifex maximus at Hillsborough, especially so if it became clear that Ashdown’s real job was elsewhere (e.g. those
    Balkan micro-states, some smaller than NI, queuing up for EU membership, and needing to be taught which knife and fork to use).

    But I am sure that wasn’t the real aim. Brown’s ploy has
    * screwed the LibDems,
    * (pace Sammy Morse @ 05.12 PM) shown up Ming for being weak-as-dishwater,
    * got the Tory re-launch on Monday and the NHS proposal, just yesterday, off the front pages.

    I believe Gordon Brown’s political techniques are analogous to Norman Hunter’s soccer skills. The lad from Kirkcaldy, fan of Raith Rovers, has had lots of opportunity to observe how to “bite their legs off”. A good primer on the grittiness to come is James Naughtie’s parallel biography of Blair and Brown, The Rivals (extracts still on line at,,559044,00.html).

  • And other thing: isn’t it just a bit curious that Mick Fealty, deep in the belly of the beast that is The Guardian is putting up this item, with his spin?

  • Mick Fealty


    Martin Kettle thinks it was a masterplay:

    And ‘deep in the belly’..?

    I don’t think so… 🙂


  • Mick Fealty @ 09:53 PM

    Y’know, I have this theory that over-population and synchronicity make it impossible for anyone, anywhere to have an original thought any more. Or maybe I’m just dumber than my arrogance allows me to believe.

    But I wish I seen Kettle before I made my offering.

    It’s humbling. It makes me sick.


  • What complete nonsense.There is no way Lib Dems would be offered cabinet seats at this juncture.
    I may consider cancelling my subscription to the Manchester Guardian Weekly if this is the best they can come up with.