Saturday, May 15, 2010

Brown's Historic Reputation

History will deal Gordon Brown a kinder hand than contemporary commentators, so says Anthony Seldon in the Guardian today. "The reputation of Brown's premiership will grow" he says, although it is hard to see how it could in any case go much further in the opposite direction!

Seldon - who has made something of a living (alongside his day job as Head of Wellington College) out of analysing the different premierships of recent years - makes some interesting comparisons between Blair and Brown. Blair, he suggests, was much the better political operator, but achieved rather less than Brown when it comes down to substantive policies. He sees Brown as the creative force behind much of the success of the first Blair term, although conversely says that Brown then went on to limit the success of the second term with his obduracy. Blair, of course, faced a far sunnier set of political circumstances in 1997 than Brown ever managed to face. And the manner of Brown's exit was, indeed, a dignified one.

Seldon provides useful illumination and some recent historical parallels - he compares Brown with that other short-lived Labour premier and former Chancellor, James Callaghan. Whether or not the way in which Brown conducted his office - revealed so vividly in Andrew Rawnsley's book - will have an impact alongside an assessment of his political record remains to be seen, although I suspect Seldon is right. The stuff of Rawnsley's book - Brown's rages, his way of working - makes for entertaining reading, but hardly affected Brown even amongst voters today; I don't think history will see that side of him as more than a footnote. More serious will be the analysis of his role in Blair's government, which was such an essential precursor to his own short premiership.

1 comment:

Ben Ross said...

Brown will be studied extensively in media history, but nothing more. It is a fantastic contrast between Blair and Brown in the treatment of the media and its influence. On policy, I believe his premiership will be a footnote! Instead we will focus on his relationship with Blair.