Thursday, September 03, 2009
Brown's Lack of Bottle
Those familiar with Tom Bower's biography of Brown will be aware of the question marks raised over his decisiveness, or as Michael White calls it 'courage'. In 1978 he bottled out of taking on George Robertson in the Hamilton byelection; in 1994 he declined to fight Tony Blair for the party leadership; in 2007 he backed off the snap elction some were urging on him; and now he has dithered over declaring a clear position on the release of al Megrahi to return home to Libya.
Usually his dithering has been put down to tactical manouevring or party unity but some have always supected that, whilst Blair did not lack for boldness, Gordon hedges his bets and shuns open conflict. Thus he used his influence to avoid the kind of contest in 2007 which could have given him legitimacy he still lack as prime minister. This time it's probably connected with a desire to stand by and let the SNP suffer the storm of criticism without any distraction from him.
Interestingly another decision has arisen on which Brown has to take a position: whether to participate in a televised debate during the next election campaign. Sky News has signed up Cameron and Clegg and says it will leave an empty chair if Gordon spurns the offer. Mandelson has already suggested Brown would have no problem dealing with Cameron but I'd be surprised if someone who has been so regularly trounced at PMQs will expose himself to such risk. Usually it's the incumbent who refuses to give an opponent airtime but, as with 1997 when Blair refused to grant one to Major, the pretender is favourite and Gordon has every need to risk a situation in which he can make up some ground. Will he take it? My money would be against it.
I'll be hugely surprised if he does a televised debate which is a shame as it would be great to see the different policies articulated by the leaders.
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