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The future's Brown

Nick Robinson | 20:57 UK time, Thursday, 2 November 2006

Just a few weeks ago Cabinet ministers and others who regard themselves as being part of Team Blair were pledging privately to do everything they could to stop Gordon Brown. The search was on for ABG - Anybody But Gordon. Not now. Now those same people are telling me 'it's almost certainly Gordon'. One Cabinet minister told me "There is nobody who is a plausible contender" to take on the Chancellor.

So, what has changed?

First, Gordon Brown himself. He has made an effort to reach out to those he once treated as enemies - Blairite ministers led by John & John (Reid and Hutton). Instead of resisting plans to debate future policy as he once did, he is now embracing the process.

Secondly, the search for "Anyone but Gordon" faltered when people realised that they might be the "anyone". No-one wants to run to get slaughtered. Alan Johnson will, I believe, signal soon that he's interested in being Deputy not leader. John Reid is saying nothing but his friends say he's not burning to run.

Thirdly, the Labour Party signalled their anger with both Brown-ites and Blair-ites who appeared to be putting themselves before their party or their country.

Does this mean Gordon Brown's certain to be PM? Of course not. Just as things have changed dramatically in recent weeks, they could change again. If Gordon Brown looks like a loser when the time comes to choose Tony Blair's successor his party will look for a winner. If his conversion to being a team player proves temporary one of his colleagues may yet stand against him (On tonight's Question Time Charles Clarke refuses to rule himself out of the running and says that Messrs Reid, Johnson and Milburn would all make good leaders too)

But - and it's a big but - those who were once irreconciliables are busily reconciling themselves to a Brown premiership. And, for those who think this is mere Westminster tittle tattle, there is an effect in the real world. Officials say that Whitehall began to grind to a halt in September as Blair & Brown fought. Now, the wheels of government are rolling again. Civil servants think they can see the future - and it's Brown.


  • 1.
  • At 09:53 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Andrew Butterwick wrote:

Call me cynical but won't this dramatic reversal of view from within the labour party just add weight to the arguement that there are too many politicians who are more interested in being "on message" and going with the flow rather than standing up for what they really believe in? The initial backlash against Brown was almost like the story of the "Emperors Clothes" in that all of a sudden it became cool to question the accepted progression to a Brown coronation, whereas beforehand, whilst they might have thought Brown wasn't an ideal successor to Blair, nobody wanted to be the one who voiced such a controversial opinion!
Once again this will "turn off" voters and lead to more political apathy in front of the next general election.

  • 2.
  • At 08:56 AM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Rob wrote:

If the future's bright when its orange, would anyone like to guess what it is when its Brown?

  • 3.
  • At 09:09 AM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Jeremy wrote:

The longer the Labour party continue this game of charades, the more Tony Blair seems out of control and arrogant - and the more likely it is that the Conservatives get back in power at the next election.

  • 4.
  • At 09:28 AM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Brian Tomkinson, Bolton,UK wrote:

Why then is Blair still unwilling to publicly endorse Brown?

  • 5.
  • At 09:35 AM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • David Evans wrote:

No way is this tittle-tattle. This is about a united Labour Party, which may not bother most people, but it is vital. The dissaray the Conservative party have been in before Cameron took over was entertaining for some, but actually not very good for accountability of government. Whether Labour is in power or not, it needs not to self-inflict wounds that would take a decade or more to heal.

Even if others don't think this matters, I believe it does.

  • 6.
  • At 09:35 AM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Elizabeth wrote:

Why does it not surprise me that this bunch of self serving labour ministers are suddenly backing Gordon Brown. What a shower!

  • 7.
  • At 09:48 AM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • John wrote:

Yes, things are looking up for Mr Brown, now he can count on Charles Clarke's vote just months after Mr Clarke described the Chancellor as a "deluded control freak" with psychological issues. It's these u-turns that give politicians a bad name, can we ever believe a word they say ?

  • 8.
  • At 10:09 AM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Ed Clarke wrote:

Have the Labour party forgotten that the electorate don't want Brown?

  • 9.
  • At 10:38 AM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Mike wrote:

I would disagree, whilst the fratricidal tendencies of the Labour seem to have abated; there is the small matter of the electorate. The Labour party have had their 'Emperor New Clothes' moment and people see them for what they are. Divided, out of touch, dominated by spin and bad administrators.

People know that the Labour party is broken and they dished out a serious bashing at the recent local elections. People can see they are chasing the Tory policy coat tails with every announcement. Nothing the Labour party dish out sticks to Cameron. The Tory policy golden goose that Labour have relied upon for new 'eye-catching initiatives' is no longer their preserve.

Whilst Blair clings to power, the paralysis will continue. The portents are not good elsewhere. Iraq is the 21st century Suez and the NHS is in trouble despite the huge resources thrown at it. The government's own Stern report shows that Labour have been inactive on the environment and are cynical on their version of 'green 'taxes.

Worst of all, the Labour chant 'it's all the Tories fault' no longer works, Labour's own decisions are coming home to roost. Brown was a key architect of these decisions and despite his attempts to appeal to voters, he has far too much baggage and has publicly declared he will continue with 'Blairism'.

That is Labour shortest ever suicide note. The people no longer want authoritarist Blairism.

Nick, you really were begging for puerile comments with a headline like that. I'll not start the ball rolling, but I will say that it's obvious that the Gordon is the man the Tories fear most. Hence the constant dragging up of "the West Lothian question" and the stirring of english nationalist sentiment. Jeopardising the future of the Union for short-term political gain? It sadly appears so.

  • 11.
  • At 11:56 AM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Russell Long wrote:

So Brown's bought off or blackmailed all those standing against him? One more reason why he's an excellent politician and one more reason why people like him shouldn't be allowed to run a bath, let alone a country.

  • 12.
  • At 01:24 PM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Robert McIntyre wrote:

I saw Charles Clarke on Newsnight saying Brown was the best man for the job. In his now famous Telegraph interview he described Brown as "a control freak", "deluded" and "uncollegiate". So is our conclusion to be that a person with such deadly flaws is the best Labour have? Maybe they should call a General Election and allow more candidates to run for the job?

  • 13.
  • At 01:41 PM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • chris cooke wrote:

It is a shame that the people of the country who feel the end result of these potential changes have no involvement of the leadership of the ruling party.

The people of this country voted in the Labor Govt with Tony Blair as the PM Gordon Brown the Chancellor.

The leadership campaign centered around the leader of the party Tony Blair, and many votes will have reflected this.

A new leader of a country should be electable publicly, not from within the ranks of other ministers.

It is not suprising that people continue to be disenfranchised from domestic politics when they have only one say every 4 years or so.

  • 14.
  • At 02:31 PM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Charles E Hardwidge wrote:

While the focus is on who may be the future Prime Minister, I think, both media and public are equally important. There’s been some movement which suggests they’re getting on the maturity cluetrain. Clearly, disruptive behaviour and selfish attitudes have had their day and a new dynamic is beginning to emerge. I hope that whoever is leader has the firmness and sensitivity to assist and allow this to develop.

From the Middle-East, to the EU budget negotiation, to the Muslim veil discussion, the key legacy of Prime Minister Blair’s term in office has been to develop positive consensus. If this can move forward so that business sees poor communities as an investment opportunity, the media helps inform rather than titillate, and people feel they get something out of society instead of being treated like a doormat, we’ll be doing fine.

To some degree, I think, the smart Prime Minister will balance setting a lead with allowing people to do their thing. Fiery government that snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, and hand waving protestors that rail against the world keep the temperature to high. Personally, I favour a partnership between John Reid and Margaret Becket. Their balance of firmness and sensitivity is symbolic of what people can achieve together.

  • 15.
  • At 02:35 PM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Jim wrote:

Why am I not surprised? The thought of power slipping away must have been appalling for Gordon Brown. What is the old adage? "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" even if it means making friends with all old your enemies and those who you don't like very much. Ah well, it was ever so!

  • 16.
  • At 02:39 PM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Matt wrote:


If Gordon is desperate for a mandate to lead the labour party and hence the Government, hows about a top job to the most most senior party member who is willing to run for the leadership against him. The media profile of both is enhanced and gordon comes out on top with his champion well rewarded???

  • 17.
  • At 03:04 PM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Stephen wrote:

What you say is very good news if you're a supporter of the labour party. The public conflict between Blairites and Brownites will only damage the party and their election prospects. Hopefully both camps have settled their differences and all can now rally around Brown who is head and shoulders above any candidate in the country.

  • 18.
  • At 04:05 PM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Andrew wrote:

If Nick's right, it is indeed excellent news.
For those of us who are fed up to the back teeth of the incompetent bunch of wasters currently 'running' the country.
Brown (or Blair) for PM is about as good a guarantee as I need that Labour will once more be consigned to the wasteland of opposition (their natural home) at the next election.

  • 19.
  • At 05:37 PM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • R Sawyer wrote:

Ruined the economy, remember his sale of gold reserves at rock bottom, pensions in chaos, micromanaged tax system to stasis.
The country next? HELP!!

  • 20.
  • At 06:16 PM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • b johnson wrote:

oh good does this mean we will all have our "normal birth" babies delivered by top flight consultants in the nhs, as Mrs Brown did? and stop the arrogant "a little bit of pain is good for you" nonsense from the poorly trained midwifes the mothers not married to an MP get, even when they are somewhat more complex than "normal birth"?

  • 21.
  • At 06:30 PM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • D Ward wrote:

I always think PMQs is a good indicator of the mood of the Labour Party. This week, John Reid was nodding emphatically at TB's comments on Brown's record; conversely, John Prescott sat motionless. The backbenchers were also far more vocal in support of Blair - all making me think that there has been a shift towards Brown, and that Reid has fallen in behind him.

  • 22.
  • At 07:23 PM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • chris wrote:

Whatever, as we are in a democracy there should be a primary election involving a few candidates with a debate among them on live TV.Let's the people have a say....

Gordon Brown has gone all out to reinvent himself and this makeover is paying rich dividends. The once dour Gordon is smiling more and seems to be pressing all the right buttons as far as the media is concerned. So much so the Labour faithful have begun to realise the need to show unity behind the Chancellor and stop the Conservatives from making further in-roads into Labour strongholds. Undoubtedly Gordon has strong credentials and his likeability is growing in direct proportion to his wider smiles. So keep smiling Gordon and the next elections could be your crowning moment as Labour carries on governing under your wise leadership. But do thank Tony Blair for making Labour electable in the first place.

  • 24.
  • At 08:50 AM on 04 Nov 2006,
  • Mr. J.L. Todd wrote:

Despite all the vitriol directed at Gordon Brown in the past 9 years the fact remains that the economy of the U.K. has remained exceptionally stable! Annual growth has been modest
but steady, and along with other factors, this has kept inflationary pressures low in comparison to many other nations! Brown has pleased neither the Right, NOR the Left, and during this period he has maintained a dignified silence, except at the Despatch Box with his lengthy Budget monologues! Unlike other politicians, he has kept his interviews to the minimum! Brown does not pretend to be some populist, charismatic figure like Blair but simply a man who gets on with the job! He is undoubtedly ruthless, and IF he does become leader of the Labour Party, and IF he does become the next P.M. of the U.K., he will tear through our society and change it forever. The reactionary establishment are terrified of what he might do? In comparison to this giant, the other opposition parties are stuffed with nothing but political pygmies! I think we should all be very afraid.... Lachie

  • 25.
  • At 09:39 AM on 04 Nov 2006,
  • Colin Thompson wrote:

Why would anybody want to fight a losing battle? Let Mr Brown take over for a while,lose the next election, then run for the leadership, under the banner "I told you so".

The only problem with that for Alan Milburn is, if he's Brown's deputy he might have to go as well.

  • 26.
  • At 10:22 AM on 04 Nov 2006,
  • George Dutton wrote:

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
Robert Burns (1759-1796)

The call for Scottish Independence could well wreck Browns ambitions.A stronger turn towards independence in Scotland may make new Labour think again about Brown.
As for Brown himself if he does become leader of new Labour it will be business as usual he is even more pro privatisation then Blair.You will also see a man who becomes pro USA in a bigger way then Blair.It`s the way the world is going I'm afraid and I for one am very afraid.

No mention off Labour MP John McDonnell above Nick?.

By the way Blair has NOT gone yet the tombstone may have been engraved minus the date of death? but have we actually seen the open grave yet I think NOT.

"Have the Labour party forgotten that the electorate don't want Brown?"

I think that the Labour party have forgotten that we even exist!


I wonder if the reason Blair has not gone just yet is due to the business of Iraq and the death sentence given Saddam, and what other nasties is Brown likely to inherit.

If I were Brown given the foreign policy debacles, I might be a little bit more patient.

As to Brown being a fit successor, who else could there, the next tranche are well behind him in experience and also have so many quirks, its really hard to see anyone else but Brown being the contender.

Hobson's choice seems to be the state of "Brownovia" (I heard this term somewhere) for the forseeable. Mind you he may be more patient than is good for him. Or he may be quick and radical. I suspect he has his claws into the PM just now and the PM is stuck between so huge a rock and hard place, it is Brown dictating and not Blair manipulating.

I suspect its a case of who knows where the bodies are buried which will resolve all this hokum. And Brown may relinquish chancellorship on the surface, he won't in reality, will he?

  • 29.
  • At 03:32 PM on 05 Nov 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

"So, what has changed?"

Has anything changed?
This chitchat goes on and on and on.
It depends on the political orientation of the journalist and/or the political backer of a publication. Not to mention availability or otherwise of hard news on the day.

  • 30.
  • At 04:18 PM on 05 Nov 2006,
  • Sybill wrote:

I had serious doubts about Gordon Brown's suitability to become P.M. His lack of judgement, timing, inability to make a decision being just a few. However, I am now sure to change my mind having read his 'vision' for the future. An X Factor Britain with shows like The Apprentice and Dragon's Den inspiring us to Aspire.

If this is his dystopian idea for our future then the Gods protect us.

By standing solidly behind Gordon, the Labour Party wants to project a united party with a solid front against David Cameron and the Conservatives. Gordon is also making a real effort to show the sunny side of himself which is paying dividends. Others in the Labour Party who were considering challenging him have realised the folly of doing so. A united Labour Party could stop Cameron from reaching his dream of becoming the next Prime Minister. No one could really criticise Gordon for the prudent way he has managed the economy so far. He is evidently a safe pair of hands and voters would trust him with the PM's job. So keep smiling Gordon!

  • 32.
  • At 05:56 PM on 05 Nov 2006,
  • John Galpin wrote:

Chris Cooke comments that the people of Britain "Voted in Labour with Tony Blair as leader". Well 64% of them didn't vote for labour and not all those that did were Blairites. The fundamental problem with the political system and voter disenfranchisement is that a minority party has untrammeled authority over a majority who never wanted their policies and it has been thus, whichever party was in power, since the first labour government after the war. Until the voting system starts to represent the will of the people this must inevitably continue. I'm not making a party political point, frankly none of them impress me, but a democratic one. Can anyone think of a third world election where a government was formed by a party/ politician with 36% of the vote that would be called fair and democratic by any country in the western world?

There you have it in a nutshell, our "democratic " outcome is worse in terms of fair representation than pretty much every banana republic on the planet.

  • 33.
  • At 07:13 PM on 05 Nov 2006,
  • gerry o'neill wrote:

It seems to me that the Labour Party have peered into the abyss. They realise that anything except a party united on the middle ground will lose the next election. They also follow Clinton's mantra "It's the economy, stupid" and Brown's record is unassailable thus far even though it may have been erected on Tory foundations. However, as everyone knows it is events which occur which can have the most momentus impact and there is all to play for between now and the next election.

May you live in interesting times.

  • 34.
  • At 10:34 AM on 06 Nov 2006,
  • Robert wrote:

Brown as next PM? Why not? Things might just get better -- for our own safety, there may be more CCTV cameras on our streets. A thriving financial environment, for which Middle Britain shall provide the majority of funds. Privatised schools and hospitals outside of government regulation -- it may save billions, but without official regulation, who would maintain quality control?

For all this and more disastrous mismanagement from another New Labour term, by all means vote in Gordon Brown as Prime Minister.

I realise I am in a minority, but I fail to see why we should accept that Tony Blair should go at all. Didn't the country just vote him and his party in for an historic third term a mere 18 months ago? It's clear Blair's hand has been forced to declare his resignation. If the Labour party thinks Blair has lost it, why don't they just call another election and find out if it's only Blair's fault for all the world's miseries. Doesn't the Labour party owe him that at least? It's been the PM who has led the recent "healing" in his party, though he never gets credit for it. As regards Brown, I don't like treachery amongst "friends".

  • 36.
  • At 11:13 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • David Watkins wrote:

1. I agree with poster no. 35. In this country we seem to love to hate politicians despite the fact that generally we live good, fulfilled and long lives and the country on the whole works. Why cant we recognise that politicians are flawed human beings making good and bad decisions just like the rest of us and give them some leeway for making mistakes (instead of forcing them to resign?) For the record, I define myself as a 'swing voter'.

2. I find the BBC's comment on the democrat win a little disturbing, I am no fan of the war in Iraq but you seem to take every opportunity to blame it for the republicans downfall when the exit polls clearly suggested that it was corruption and the economy that people voted for and voting againt Bush didnt even feature as an issue? I wonder why the media find it so difficult to get this in perspective? It should be given as much press as Afghanistan is given and more important things should be focused on, things that people care about, (like the economy)?

  • 37.
  • At 06:24 PM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • craig wrote:

The future is definately Brown and how David Cameron is going to regret the disparaging comments that he and his party has made of him in recent months. It will all change dramatically when we see the coming of Browwn.

  • 38.
  • At 01:43 PM on 15 Nov 2006,
  • George Dutton wrote:

The future is BLUE as it always has been it did for a little while (1945) change a little bit purple but soon went back to BLUE the question is how much darker will the blue become before it turns BLACK.

  • 39.
  • At 08:29 AM on 17 Nov 2006,
  • Percy J Hood wrote:

I think that Brown will be remembered as having ruined the private pension funds of this country without any outside assistance. P.J.H

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