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Tuesday, March 20, 2007


The FT has the article by Gordon Brown's previous Permanent Secretary to the Treasury calling him Stalinist etc. He doesn't like him

Gordon Brown has exhibited a "Stalinist ruthlessness" in government, belittling his cabinet colleagues whom the Treasury treats with "more or less complete contempt",
In an interview with the Financial Times, Lord Turnbull, permanent secretary to the Treasury for four years under Mr Brown before becoming cabinet secretary in 2002, accused the prime minister-in-waiting of a "very cynical view of mankind and his colleagues".

"He cannot allow them any serious discussion about priorities. His view is that it is just not worth it and "they will get what I decide". And that is a very insulting process," Lord Turnbull said.
............."This has been an unworthy development in the sense that it belittles other ministers. The surprising thing about the Treasury is the more or less complete contempt with which other colleagues are held."

"So if you want something done about planning, or about the environment, you don't talk to Ruth Kelly or David Miliband and say "we really must do something about this". Instead you summon up Kate Barker,{author of the Barker report on housing} or you get Andrew Gowers in to do intellectual property, rather than talk to the DTI."
..........The chancellor, he said, had kept control of those budgets "entirely to himself".

"That has been impressive, but in a sense reprehensible. There has been an absolute ruthlessness with which Gordon has played the denial of information as an instrument of power."
Onn the other hand Eddie George former Governor of the Bank of England said
Lord George when the former governor of the Bank of England said he had been "very surprised" when Mr Brown proceeded to set up the Financial Services Authority, the City watchdog, without consulting him. However, he disagreed with the characterisation of Mr Brown as a man who used the "denial of information as a source of power".

Lord George told a committee of MPs that the chancellor was normally willing to hear his views, but it took time to build up a relationship based on trust. "I accepted that he had certain decisions and they were decisions for him to take. But he always gave me the opportunity to express my opinion."

"The FSA was different. I was very surprised. I thought we were going to talk about that. That was introduced very soon after the MPC for reasons you would have to ask him about." Asked whether there was a "spirit of openness", between them, Lord George replied: "Yes. It took a time to build up." "I had to persuade him I could trust him. I think that kind of relationship is very important and I would encourage both sides to continue it."
Well it takes quite a lot to piss off Sir Humphrey so much he goes public. Though Lord Turnball has said this was an "off the record" briefing I don't think he is that niave. The mandarin has clearly felt "belittled" by Brown & has come out at as damaging a moment as possible. It has been suggested that Blair is behind this & is trying to encourage somebody else to stand but I doubt it because this makes it look like Brown is already the real PM while Blair is doing his prefered job of US roving ambassador. This fits quite well with Blair's partnership joke "he does the work & I take the credit". It is mot good to be caught showing contenpt for your cabinet colleagues even, perhaps particularly, when it is justified. Clearly Gordon does have a problem with personal interaction which is a very serious thing for a politician but less so for an administrater.

On the other hand better than Jim Hacker being told "your civil servants say you are a pleasure to work for". In my opinion the Barker Report which is mentioned as an example of his overawing colleagues is a very good piece of work. It is not quite as free marketish about housing as I would like but does, unlike almost any political statement from any party, acknowledge that the laws of supply & demand do work on housing & that the solution must be to allow the building of more. This compares, for example, very favourably with the Tory policy in Scotland limited to subsidising some government building of "affordable housing" to provide tied houses for government employees.

If Gordon Brown is highly intelligent & if he really knows what he is doing (& I grant the latter is questionable) then, by these lights he might turn out to be a PM who does an exceptional amount of good for the country even if he doesn't have the easy charm of his predecessor.

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