Brown to take the Thatcher plunge?

On the thirtieth anniversary of Margaret Thatcher coming to power, the Torygraph is running a whole section today canonising the Prime Minister who was ruthlessly toppled by a spectacular cabinet and backbench revolt. Without a hint of irony, the Telegraph is also salivating over Gordon Brown’s similar troubles. In the cabinet ranks, serious damage limitation is the name of the game to try to forestall freefall. This time, with four weeks to go to the Euro-poll and a year to the general election, the feeding frenzy looks more serious. On the Today programme John Humphrys chortled his way through the motions of allowing Harriet Harman to deny

she had any intention of challenging Brown or had any ambition to become PM. (She’s safe enough there, I’d day). By contrast, papers including the pro-Labour Mirror and the Guardian highlighted Alan Johnson’s remark “I’m not saying there are no circumstances” he would stand, the line the BBC chose not to pick up at the time.”The health secretary, Alan Johnson, surprised colleagues by deviating from his usual categorical denial of interest and suitability for the top job, saying in an interview on BBC1’s the Andrew Marr Show: “I am not saying there’s no circumstances.” However, the thrust of his interview was supportive: “I have no aspiration for the leadership, my aspiration was for the deputy leadership and I couldn’t even get that. I am not driven by this ambition. I want to be part of a good government and I want it to be led by Gordon Brown. I actually admire Gordon Brown tremendously.”

While the current clamour against Brown is louder than last year’s I doubt it will reach a peak until after the Euro elections. The sharpest test will be the one Neil Kinnock is spotting – the size of the BNP poll. So where are we now? Jackie Ashley who went off piste a few months ago to demands that Brown quit, is back on course with a cool analysis. Ben Brogan, restored to the Telegraph from the Mail, takes the philosophical view that the annual speculation about Brown’s future goes with the birds singing and the sap rising in Spring.
For those who want a local angle, Mallusk’s finest, the increasingly wobbly Kate Hoey, has denied she was about to defect from Labour but, “ in a measure of the despair now gripping the Labour ranks, she said she did not view the prospect of a Conservative victory as a disaster. “You’re asking me ‘would I be devastated?’ No absolutely not.””

  • blinding

    Thatcher disgraced herself in her exit from Downing Street.

    The one that could dish it out could not take it herself.
    That trait in some one is about as pathetic as it can get.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Johnson is just about the only one among them who might be able to turn things around. And the only way he would be able to do it would be by making a clean break from Brown. And he needs to do it quickly.

    What is it about politicians like Blears and, previously, Milliband, who write inflammatory articles critical of their own government in the national media, and then try to pretend that they didn’t mean anything by it ? Pull the other one ..

  • Declan

    People should be more worried what David Cameron has planned for the future of NI with his friends from the UUP.

  • Greenflag


    ‘People should be more worried what David Cameron has planned for the future of NI with his friends from the UUP.’

    Cameron is no Ted Heath or is he ? He would’nt ?Would he ? I mean dissolve this expensive charade of an Assembly ? I suspect that if Cameron makes it to Downing St he will of necessity be so focused on the English interest in the Tory heartland (the south ) that he’ll
    have neither the time not inclination to pay much attention to NI . The UUP’s one seat at Westminster won’t matter and neither will the DUP’s . However if the NI parties ‘resurrected ‘ an Irish party a la Parnell they could make a difference in the House particularly if they voted together to ensure NI’s economic interests are ‘defended ‘ ;)?

  • DC

    10 years of Blair wasn’t good enough and I hold out no hope that a second grade Cameron who called himself heir to blair will do any better.

    Not to mention the hapless position the tories have on europe, in my view gordon brown could have been the right leader for these times, potentially the right leader but caught totally with the wrong baggage.

    David blunkett said recently that labour needs to reengage at community level, well to do that would mean to stop the right wing tough on crime measures labour has ran, bigger prison population, tougher sentences, throwing away advice re reclassifying ecstasy, cannabis, etc, Id cards. It would mean ditching media-led initiative-itis for real policy responses. Like more appropriate intervention on the ground than petty criminals wearing yellow luminous jackets saying COMMUNITY PAYBACK when doing community service. Naff, completely naff.

    Today is a world where people are driven by compelling marketing strategies, advertising their desires that are being put before their eyes via all sorts of media, that just writing legislation at westminster for dead tree press consumption is proof of the sorry state of westminster politics. It fails to understand the psychology of those super smart marketing experts. Be they for drinks, cars, clothes, makeup, lifestyle choices, what’s cool what’s not. Excessiveness is cool it would seem.

    But just writing legislation at westminster is not cool nor effective, it’s only for the small club in that village who are into it, except of course for those in the public authorities cycle who take it up and never manage to move it beyond that exclusive well paid system. Because they aren’t leaders who inspire but merely middle aged, middle sized middle class bureaucrats.

    Whereas on tv and adverts, now there’s something you can better believe in.

  • Rory Carr

    The way the Telegraph has steadily declined from being the best-selling daily broadsheet with a great team of writers and high production values has been well parodied in Private Eye which went from referring to it as the Torygraph to the Hellograph and currently, most unkind of all, as the Maily Telegraph. All of this was well deserved as the propensity to seek out stories with salacious content grew and front-page pictures of nubile (but nicely middle-class ) young women became ever more common (oh how it loved the opportunities that examination results time presented for justification of the inclusion of such shots).

    Which makes me a wee bit trepidatious about my daily trip to the newsagent to browse it for fear that some of this “salivatious” content might centre around Madam T herself and include hitherto unpublished “candid shots” of her as she exits limousines ungraciously. I am not sure that me old ticker could take it.

  • Greenflag

    rory carr,

    ‘some of this “salivatious” content might centre around Madam T herself and include hitherto unpublished “candid shots” of her as she exits limousines ungraciously.’

    The 30 year ‘anniversary of the succession’ of Mrs T to Downing St surely provides a focus for the far right to wonder -where did it all go wrong ? Whatever happened to ‘get on your bike ‘ and ‘greed is good ‘ ?

    As Mrs T slips away with dementia /alzheimers many Britons will choose to remember the ‘iron lady ‘ as either the saviour of Britain or the harbinger of a post industrial diminished wasteland ?

    We Irish (non U (unionist)) don’t ever expect anything from British Prime Ministers other than the hope that as regards Northern Ireland they will not make a bad situation worse . In that regard Mrs T record compares unfavourably with that of messrs Blair, Callaghan and Heath.

    But as Maggie is canonised by the Torygraph and the right wing press barons we’ll not be hearing or reading too much of her ‘irish policies ‘ -nope not even that ‘repartition ‘ idea 🙁

  • Rory Carr

    p.s. As no doubt you have spotted, “salavatious” is a made-up word. It just sounded so good in context that I couldn’t resist it, but took the precaution of placing it in parenthesis. But, who knows, with enough repitition it might become part of common usage.

    By the way, Madame T’s dementia long preceded her ejection from high office. At the height of her premiership I was watching her being interviewed on television in the company of a nurse with over 40 years nursing experience.

    “Poor woman”, she said after peering closely at the screen.

    “What do you mean?”, I asked in puzzlement.

    “She clearly is suffering from alcholic dementia, the signs are unmistakable – the steely glint in the eye, de Pruyten’s contracture in the little finger. It’s a downward spiral for her I’m afraid”.

    Not long thereafter the Blessed One underwent a surgical procedure in an attempt to correct the effects of de Pruyten’s contracture. But alas! it is purely a cosmestic treatment and does not address the underlying cause.

  • Aw, c’mon!

    We’re not going to play the metropolitan press-mafia game here, are we? Or must it be relentless celebrity politics and cult-of-personality?

    There currently is no vacancy for Leader of a major political party, in any of the legislatures of these islands: yet, we are repeatedly encouraged to believe the opposite. It’s relentless “play-the-man” but not “play-the-ball”. As for the Thatcher celebrations, see today’s Guardian for Steve Bell’s “What If?” strip. OK, you can’t afford decent journalism: it’s available on-line.

    Now, can we have some reasoned debate on what alternatives there are to the policies of the present Westminster government? Or is it going to be smoke-and-mirrors all the way to next year?

  • Rory Carr

    Now, Malcolm, you know better than anyone that there is not going to be any widespread reasoned debate on alternatives to present Westminster government policy and moreover that any reasoned debate within the party of the government will be effectively crushed and any who push for it will be dealt with most ruthlessly. The treatment of Labour stalwarts in Margaret Hodges’s constituency being the latest reminder of that.

    The drive for debate to concentrate on the politics of personality is headed up in the main by those very careerists who see the opportunity for their star to rise higher at the expense of that star to which they had formerly been so attached and they today are as common in the government party as we always had known they were in the parties of opposition.

    Besides which, there is no essential difference between the two big uns and the little titch. They all agree that life after Westminster will be decidedly sweeter if one has served those friends capable of later showing their gratitude.

    The gratitude of the needy is expressed in fond remembrance of those who exerted their influence to assist them; the gratitude of the rich and powerful is expressed in mocking laughter at the ease with which they sold their souls so cheaply.

  • Greenflag

    malcolm redfellow ,

    ‘what alternatives there are to the policies of the present Westminster government?’

    Beats me never mind the opposition parties .

    ‘Is it going to be smoke-and-mirrors all the way to next year?”

    Eh yes

    ‘There currently is no vacancy for Leader of a major political party, in any of the legislatures of these islands’

    For some odd reason that doesn’t surprise me . Looks like the choice everywhere is between a poisoned chalice and poisoned chalice

    A thought just struck me -Why can’t all this ‘debt ‘ be written off . At this point who would actually lose? Switzerland ? The Banks ? the weapons of mass destruction impressarios the hedge fund , Wall St and City shower ?

    The only way this debt will ever be paid down is through massive inflation . And on that point are the extra printing presses ordered yet or has that b***ard Mugabe got some back orders still in production;?

    I think reasoned debate may return when the economy shocked rabbit is moved away from the headlights of an oncoming election ?

  • The Third Policeman

    I think Rory you’re referring to Dupuytren’s Contracture which is a progressive thickening of the palmer tendons that connect to the fingers. Sufferers, a group that does indeed include Madge, are left with a fixed flexure deformity, normally of the little and ring finger. It is associated with liver disease and in medical school we look out for it as part of a full abdominal exam. Whether or not alcohol directly causes it is unknown.

    There is no such thing as alcoholic dementia, you’re maybe thinking of Wernicke’s encephalopathy, or Korsakoff’s psychosis. These are syndromes often seen in chronic alcoholics and are caused by thiamine deficancies. Atrophy of the mammilary bodies in the brain cause a retrograde amnesia which the brain makes up for with confabulation, that is, making up sheer bullshit! There’s other symptoms such as apathy and clumsiness. The former is reversible with IV thiamine, the latter is not.

    As of yet a steely gaze is not a sign of any medical problem! A mischevious twinkle on the other hand!….

  • 0b101010

    No-one should want to topple him before the general election. Unless they pull a last minute spectacular, Labour are going to lose. If they have their wits about them, the pretenders will want to avoid sitting on the throne when that happens.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    The Conservatives have a cunning plan for NI, they want to make it better for everyone and more economically viable.

    Of course such subversive, underhand and corrosive plans will be resisted by everyone on the basis that a begging bowl(DUP) or joining with a bankrupt state (SDLP & SF) are better choices.

    The 1.7 million people here to accept that we are part of a 60 million population in the UK and about 7,000 million in the world. In the scheme of things we are not that important and need to start looking at how we can join the real world, work together and stop having a 70 mile border as the number 1 preoccupation.

    The UUP have already accepted it, and change is coming.

  • I agree with Frustrated Democrat.

    The question posed by this post is “Will Gordon Brown resign to make way for a new leader?”

    I would actually like to see it happen but it wont, for more than one reason. Firstly, the Labour party leadership system is lengthy. Secondly, once a new leader was elected, a General Election would have to be immediate. You can imagine how cynical reaction would be to that. Everybody would see the leadership election as the election for the Prime Ministerial candidate. It would be a period of utter farce and would plunge Labour into further electoral contempt.

    What Brown should do, from his party’s point of view, is call an election in the conference season. I believe that is his best chance to avoid a landslide defeat.

  • Rory Carr

    My thanks to The Third Policeman for providing the correct medical terminology of “Dupuytren’s Contracture” and further details thereon and also for additional information on that condition which laymen like me less precisely group under the term “alcholic dementia”.

    I can well understand that simply saying that “she was driven batty by the booze” may not be entirely acceptable to the medical scientist but might it not suffice for popular understanding?

    And while we are in the consulting room, so to speak, do you think that Flann O’Brien fella might have been suffering from that retrograde amnesia business and that that might have been the cause of his own (highly successful)confabulation? Not that I would recommend such a road to literary greatness, the poor man was a most unhappy, dejected looking, morose solitary drunk whenever I had occasion to spot him.

  • Rory Carr

    Correction: to para 1 above: Should read “…additional information on those other conditions…”.

    Apologies (I blame the booze meself)..

  • Frustrated Democrat @ 08:28 AM:

    So where’s this 70 mile border as the number 1 preoccupation?

    The last time I looked, the Border ran for some 225 miles. I suppose the River Bann would be a bit over 70 miles. So, the “glorious change” heralded by Cameron today, and echoed here by Frustrated Democrat @ 08:28 AM could be a retreat from the counties west of the Bann?

    Oh, and that bit about 60 million population in the UK and about 7,000 million in the world could, just could sound a bit like a whimper for the Empire on which the sun most definitely set some decades back.

    Meanwhile, we still wait for the Big Idea that is that mystical, magical “change”. All that I recall Frustrated Democrat indicating in past postings has been a pledge/promise/ aspiration/wishful thought of standardising NI corporation tax with that of the RoI. Frau Merkel would love that one, indeed. Even then, would the quid pro quo be harmonising NI VAT with the RoI? After all, VAT is the one tax above all others that Tory Chancellors sequentially ramp up: implemented in 1972 in the Heath Government; Howe up to 15% in 1979; Lamont up to 17.5% in 1991. Oh, and remember, that last one was to pay for the Poll Tax — the rest of the UK has been grateful for the NI contribution, I’m sure.

  • As for Thatcher’s “dementia”, two thoughts.

    The first (no association with the Sammy Wilson gybe) was reading a piece over the last few days — the source eludes me for the moment — wherein unidentified ministers in Harold Wilson’s 1974 government noticed the difference between the PM then and his previous application and energy from 1964-1970. Only later did the connection with the onset of Alzheimer’s occur to them.

    Second, why not apply the sharp edge of Occam’s razor? There is no evidence that Margaret Roberts/Thatcher was ever anything more than a second-rate mind in end-of-War Oxford. That was certainly the impression she gave to many of her contemporaries (and one that the rather-bright Ted Heath could never discard). She surrounded herself, and stole from strong-minded men around her: her millionaire pro-Afrikaaner husband, the intellect of Keith Joseph (who actually had read the books she claimed), the acute Nigel Lawson …

  • Anyone comparing the problems of Mad Maggie with those of Gordon Brown simply doesn’t understand British politics.

    Thatcher was sacked by a party which puts a premium on loyalty, especially by its PM – what MM totally abused by sacking Geoffrey Howe as FS in July 1989. This forced the retirement of SOD George Younger, who had been her party cheerleader, and election agent until then.

    After that, it was all downhill, especially with the u-turn about negotiating with the Provos – what was compounded by the murder of isolated Ian Gow.

    MM, in short, committed political suicide.

    As for Brown, no one in the Labor Party really wants the job now, or wants to play the role of his assassin, so it is stuck with him.

  • Comrade Stalin


    The Conservatives have a cunning plan for NI, they want to make it better for everyone and more economically viable.

    Of course such subversive, underhand and corrosive plans will be resisted by everyone on the basis that a begging bowl(DUP)

    Didn’t I see you making the case for changing Barnett so that it would, apparently, increase the level of funding for NI relative to the rest of the UK ? That looks a lot like the begging bowl to me.

    Anyway, that aside, what are your plans to make NI economically viable ? Do you have similar plans to make Scotland and Wales economically viable ?

  • The Conservatives have a cunning plan for NI

    So do nationalists. It does three things pretty well simultaneously: it harmonises corporation tax with the south, harmonises VAT with the south, and removes the border as a political pre-occupation.

    And yet unionists oppose it! Why, since it does most of what they claim to want?

  • Greenflag

    Post number 14 above May 05, 2009 @ 08:07 AM
    by one rj goes too far and should be removed .

    I hope I’m not the only one who finds the above offensive 🙁

  • Greenflag

    Whatever our opinions of Mrs Thatcher re her ‘performance ‘ on matters Irish, she was the party of ‘change’ for the UK in 1979. The British economy at that time was in a mess – not sure if it was as bad as at present but it was clear that the ‘traditional ‘ approaches by the non radical right or left of the time were not working .

    In comparison to today’s response to economic crisis Mrs Thatcher at least conveyed a convincing impression that she knew (felt ?) what was wrong with the UK and what needed to be done . Even if her ‘mind ‘ was not a first class one a suggestion as per Malcolm above, she had the political savvy to survive for 10 years at the top of the Tory Party a not inconsiderable feat .

    Cameron so far has not come up with any ‘great ideas’ to return the UK to it’s pre crash ‘good times’. Perhaps there aren’t any and the UK like Ireland and others will just have to wait until the Americans , Germans, Chinese , and Japanese get their economic motors humming again?

    Cameron knows that the UK is not up for another bout of ‘thatcherism’ . I’m not yet ready to write Brown off . What happens across the pond (USA) could have more of an impact on the UK than might yet seem possible . Obama appears to be driving his recovery and change agenda with some rapidity and his ‘opposition’ are being ‘routed’ . Rumour has it that the GOP will shortly be renamed the SAP ( Southern Appalachian Party )

    If the USA is heading to the left of centre will Britain want to head ‘right’ ?

  • Just a short contribution to add to Greenflag on Margaret Thatcher. I actually agree with what is said but would add that the true test of greatness is of a political leader is not so much the fact that he or she has won 3 general elections. It is the legacy that leader leaves. It is too early to talk about Tony Blair’s legacy, but it is legacy value which could make her position in history very different from his.

    One of Thatcher’s greatest achievements was to change the Labour Party (that is something many Labour supporters will acknowledge). Tony Blair’s so-called “what works best approach” did result in many of her policies and not being undone (that was a big difference from previous Labour administrations).

    I dont think the strength of her intellect is particularly relevant. She may have only achieved a 2nd Class honours batchelors degree whilst Gordon B’s batchelors degree was a first. The big difference is that she had the talent for political leadership which he woefully lacks. There is a problem with his personality. Charles Clarke has already alluded to this. I think more will come out about this later.

    I agree with Greenflag about Cameron too. He is acutely aware that the problems of 30 years ago are not the same as today and that different approaches are needed. There are things that can be learnt from Thatcher about political leadership and the exercise of power, particularly during a crisis period. I have every reason to believe Cameron has already absorbed those lessons.

    I also agree with Greenflag that what happens in America is very important. Where I would differ is in relation to timing. Anything good or bad that happens in America seems to have a lagging effect of up to 18 months here. The sub-prime crisis was at least a year older than in America. Even if an economic boom starts in the US tomorrow, it wont be early enough to save Brown.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I somehow can’t imagine us talking about Tony Blair’s government on the 30th anniversary of his election. He was very much following in the footsteps if what the Tories had laid down, and he didn’t overturn the old order in the same way that Thatcher did.

  • Frustrated Democrat


    Who wants to be hitched up with a bankrupt state with a high VAT rate.

    Now if the ROI rejoined NI in the UK with 10% tax it would become solvent with a reasonable VAT rate, a much better solution.

  • DC

    Comrade, Blair despite all his other failings gave the people of NI a good decade worth of non-violence, he took the strain of political contortion to stay on the track of ‘stop the killing’.

    This was well needed, it gave us all a chance to bask in a bit of optimism in terms of a better life outlook and indeed improving politics, to me that is priceless.

    Whereas, Thatcher in NI, well…

  • Comrade Stalin

    DC, I wouldn’t take that away from Blair. Indeed NI is probably about the only worthwhile element in his legacy.

    Nonetheless, Thatcher was a game-changer and, outside of NI, Blair wasn’t.

  • blinding

    Was Hazel Blears attempting to promote a woman with her U-tube (probable nod to Thatcher and no U-turning) remark at Gordans expense.
    Was it herself or Harriet Harman that she was cheerleading for.

    Gordon go and have a rest for yourself will ya. It would be good for us as well.

    Who with a bit of sense would want to take over the labour party now.
    Would they be Michael Howard. Ian Duncan Smith or William Hague (not as bad but the hair)