Saturday, April 28, 2007


Brown in for a Mega Culture Shock Predicts Major

Odd how politicians seem so much nicer once they've retired don't you think? Not that I ever really disliked John Major- any cricket lover gets a free pass on that with me. This morning ,in relaxed and witty mode, on Radio Four's The Week at Westminster he predicted Brown would face a major culture shock on entering Downing St.

Firstly, he'd find that he was no longer dealing with a small coterie of 4-5 people but a full Cabinet and a huge array of ministers and civil servants. He could no longer commune exclusively with Ed Balls and his other close associates. This relatively anti-social politician would have to pro-actively mediate and problem solve in a way he has not been required to hitherto. No longer could he present the PM with a fait accompli and then let him sort out the associated problems.

Secondly, he'd find that he could no longer be so narrow in his policy concerns. Dealing with the full gamut of government problems meant he would have to deal with crises in one area followed by crises in another completely different one and so on, each day and every day. He will be forced to move out of his traditional comfort zone of Treasury policy and do what Blair has tried to do these last ten years: govern the whole country.

Thirdly, he was not going to enjoy the advantage Major had in 1990 when his accession to the throne was not a new administration but nevertheless seemed like one to many voters. Brown and Blair have been a well established duopoly and Brown will be closely associated with Blair's record. The public might well think the time for a change has arrived in 2009. Major pointed out that the really huge, disabling party defeats have tended to come in the fourth term of governments: 1906, 1945, 1997.

Finally, he prefaced all these, surely accurate observations with an encouragement to Blair to enjoy his freedom once out of politics. He added that he now knew far more about the world, the EU and politics in general than he did when PM, despite having served as Chancellor, Foreign Secretary and in several other government posts. Now that really is a bit worrying....

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