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The Prime Ministers

Nick Robinson | 08:50 UK time, Monday, 23 February 2009

A global financial crisis. Repeated allegations of sleaze. A hostile media. It can't be much fun being prime minister.

Sir Robert WalpolePause a moment before shedding a tear in sympathy for Gordon Brown or throwing your mouse at the screen whilst screaming "he brought it all on himself". I am writing not about the current prime minister but about another chancellor who moved into 10 Downing Street - indeed the first to do so, Sir Robert Walpole, our first Prime Minister.

I've been examining the history of those who've lived and worked behind the most famous front door in the world for The Prime Ministers - a new series which begins tomorrow on BBC Radio 4.

Politicians would have us believe that it was all so much easier before the era of globalisation, 24 hour news and widespread cynicism. There was, they suggest, a golden age in which politics was not dominated by talk of spin, sleaze or splits in parties, when it focussed on policies not personalities and when our leaders had the time and the space to take considered decisions. It's a proposition I've been examining through the modern glasses not of a historian but of a hack.

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When chairing the Cabinet Gordon Brown sits in front of a portrait of Walpole - the man who governed Britain from 1721. Though much has changed during almost three centuries separating their time in office, there is more than might you expect that connects them.

Whilst Brown has faced the credit crunch, Walpole had to deal with the economic havoc created after the South Sea bubble burst. It was a vast speculative bubble not in sub-prime mortgages but in the shares of the South Sea company.

When investors realised that those shares were about as worthless as the 400% mortgage of an unemployed man living in Minnesota the impact was felt not just around the world but by the highest figures in the land. The King and many of his courtiers had invested in the South Sea bubble.

The current occupant of Number 10 has faced questions about the expense claims of his MPs, the second homes of his ministers and loans to his party. His 18th Century predecessor was a touch more brazen - employing one son in a post that gave him a peerage and £7,000 a year (rather a lot in those days) and another who was still at school as "Comptroller of the Pipe and Escheat". Walpole also sold seats in Parliament.

Gordon Brown has, it may not surprise you to learn, occasionally been known to complain about the way he's reported. Discretion prevents me from adding more. Consider how he would feel, though, if he'd been presented as our first prime minister was. One cartoon of the day showed a massive naked bottom straddling the entrance to the Treasury. No face was shown. None was needed so widespread was the view that in order to get on you had to kiss that part of Walpole's anatomy.

The prime minister then could do something that his successor must sometimes want to do - banning all reporters from Parliament and introducing government censorship of the theatre but this did not protect him from public scorn.

So far so similar you might say but the current occupant of Number 10 also has to confront the threat of terror. So, too Sir Robert Walpole. The terror threat of his day came not from al-Qaeda but from the Jacobites who were intent on restoring a Catholic to the throne of England.

After one plot was uncovered the prime minister ordered thousands of troops to mass in Hyde Park. Some accused him of exaggerating the threat in order to whip up public anger and to bolster support for the government. Such a thing would be impossible today, wouldn't it?

I've always winced when hearing modern politicians condemned for their lack of a sense of history as I feared that I was all too guilty of the same offence. I've thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in the story of eight former prime ministers from Walpole to Attlee (chosen, before you ask, on a whim) and I owe a huge debt to the historians whose work I've shamelessly plundered.

You can listen tomorrow at 0930 GMT on BBC Radio 4 (or again on Sunday night at 2245 GMT) or by clicking here.


Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    Rahere at least has been showing how history may have a modern relevance.

  • Comment number 2.

    About the only point here we can expand on sensibly is that Supt David Hartshorn, head of the Public Order branch of the Metropolitan police, has today presented certain views in the Guardian which appear to answer your question in the ante-penultimate paragraph. Yes, it not only could happen, but just has. And since expanding on that contemptible comment is exactly what they want, we should refuse the offer.

  • Comment number 3.

    Unless, of course, you intend to suggest bringing back hanging at Tyburn?

  • Comment number 4.

    Sounds like it'll be most illuminating, Nick.

    History does indeed have a lot to offer by way of perspectives. Walpole on Brown ? I'd suggest Churchill in 1945, and Callaghan in 1979, myself.

  • Comment number 5.

    Wow! Current affairs, man!

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.


    Why would Brown want to ban reporters from parliament, when the current batch are happy to absent themselves when things get at all challenging?

  • Comment number 8.

    But what are your views on Labour's financial crisis, allegations of sleaze, a hostile media, and all the other problems they face??

    As the political editor of the BBC, you do have an opinion, don't you??

  • Comment number 9.

    Any news on the loan Deripaska seeks from Mandy, by the way?

    PS I know it's less important than what Mr Robinson wrote about above.

  • Comment number 10.

    The BBC is wonderful at reporting history, but why do it's correspondents appear to absent themselves from current affairs when there is a suggestion that all may not be well with our dear departing government. Please lets have some focussed reporting on the incompetence of the present government and leave the history to the ex Oxbridge dons who live off the BBC's resources

  • Comment number 11.


    Now that you have provided an advert for your next programme, can I assume that you will shortly be returning to your day job and passing comment on current political events, or have I missed the point? This will surely be an extremely short lived blog?


  • Comment number 12.

    Oops, sorry, logged on to wrong blog by mistake!

    Does anyone have directions for Nick Robinson's political blog?

  • Comment number 13.

    So is this the latest strategy in the newlabour spin machine?

    Rather than take the rap for an imploding economy after an unprecedented credit boom? No, let's just write about the fact that bubbles have happened snce time immemorial and this is just another one..

    Noce try but if that's the case why did Gordon Brown promise us he'd abolished boom and bust?

    The problem for the governemnt, Gordon Brown and he BBC sit that they have all got so far onto the back foot that their manoeuverings are plain for all to see.

    This is a transparent attempt to build a new narrative for the government.

    The government has no narrative; it has broken the economy and the banking system in a way that has no parrallel in history.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 14.


    any comment on Mr Mandelson's good friend Oleg Deripaska (you know, the one who Mandelson spent a pleasant summer with last year on his yacht) asking the same Mr Mandelson, Business Secretary, for a sub of GBP40 million 'til pay day, to tide him over his little ahem, cash flow problems at LDV? The company that Unite were giving veiled signals about at the wekend?


  • Comment number 15.


    I think that you are being very clever. It is up to the individual to listen to your programme and understand that nothing really is 'new'. We cannot learn from history because each new event is different in some way from something else. It is not a machine for ever producing the same nut, the same size, the same in every minor detail, history is not like that.

    When I listen to your programme I will treat is an analogy. There are 'things' which we cannot say about current events and living people, but we can leave it to the listener to say to themselves, 'hey I think he might mean this or that person'.

    You were very clever over the yacht affair, only now can we see the problem with regard to states baling out firms, or companies, South Sea Company for example. Now which firm could we be talking about.

    Many years ago, during the Vietnam War, George C. Scott appeared in a film about a chaotic hospital, the hospital was an analogy for the War. Finally, they shoot horses don't they, they put them out of their misery.

  • Comment number 16.

    It is history which shapes the present. The present shapes the future.

    Some say, the past is gone it is dead let it sleep, its lessons alone are the things we should keep.

    Prime Ministers in the past were not subjected to being shown on TV 24/7 and on the internet, Youtube etc.

    However, as Brown would say, global solutions for a global age. He will just have to grin (if he can) and bear it.

  • Comment number 17.

    I find this report from you very confusing, whilst I agree with you that history is important, it bears no resemblance to what is happening today.

    A lot of Walpoles problems were not of his making, G. Browns are. Im not sure whether you are making a case for Browns its Global. Or you have immersed youself so much in history that you are making comparisons which do not exist.

    If Brown thought he could get away with it he most certainly would use armed police to put down any descent. His every action proves that he has a Government which is closed not only to public but Parliament itself. He uses the media to report his spin and they very rarely bring him to account.

    Brown and Blair have also exaggerated the threat from terrorists to feed public fear in my opinion, all in order curtail free speech, to spy on us all and engage in wars which were not lawful. The Governnment now controls our lives in a way that would never have been allowed in Walpoles day.

    If however you are saying that we have learnt nothing from the past and have people in Government who are making the same mistakes as our predecessors. I would agree with that, yes I do think under this Government democracy has gone backwards.

    Fruthermore Walpole dispite having shortcomings was a great man, Brown certainly does not fit into that category. He is a very poor leader, and will leave Britain on its knees. In my opinion he is probably the worst PM we have ever had certainly the most undemocratic. I believe he will go down in history as such.

  • Comment number 18.

    Bring back Spitting Image!

  • Comment number 19.

    Curious choice of blog material, when, in my humble opinion, there are so many more comment worthy topics Robinson could have chosen following his "absence"

    Contributors here may be be a sad minority of politics aficionados but many who aren't trained journalists could do a better job of asking those in the corridors of power searching questions. It seems to me the more contentious stories that could (would) embarrass Gordon Brown, Mandelson et al are frequently left well alone. I've said before the tenacity with which Robinson went after the Shadow Chancellor and ignored the more substantive political story there is somewhat transparent. I'm not alone in this assertion either.

    I wonder which cartoon would be most appropriate to lampoon Gordon Brown in his current predicament. I cannot believe for one moment Gordon Brown has complained about the manner in which Robinson reports on the Government and Prime Minister. If he is unhappy with the media perception of him, perhaps he could do something about it, say for example, actually answer something at PMQ's or show some contrition and humility. No doubt he'll do the latter as an Election looms.

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm interested Nick - how do you feel about newspaper hacks moving with the times (relevant today!) and giving us up-to-date angles on what's going on. After all, wasn't speed one advantage of the modern hi-tech age?

  • Comment number 21.


    Lets not forget John Major, another Chancellor turned failing Prime Minister.

    In fact, if we learn lessons from history, no one who has been Chancellor should be eligible for the PM's job.

  • Comment number 22.


    Nice to see you back, and hope that you enjoyed yourself.

    Is the purpose of this programme to show past history in the light of today's political developments?

    So, is it a tacit agreement that you are currently constricted in what you can say and report that you have to take historical figures and apply them retrospectively?

    It could be extremely illuminating, or most depressingly dull. I'd much rather have appropriate reporting and comment in the present.

    How long did the electorate have to suffer Walpole?

  • Comment number 23.

    The authoritarian system and control of the press instigated by Walpole was finally dismantled by William Hone. ‘The Laughter of Triumph’ by Ben Wilson gives an important insight into the role and duty of an independent press and a very enjoyable read as well.

    Hone indicted on three separate charges in 1817 of criminal libel chose to defend himself. He was a devastating satirist with a wonderful sense of the absurd and with his wit and diligence made a mockery out of the establishment.

    Why does Rory Bremner pale in comparison to John Stewart, where has the art of investigative journalism disappeared too and when will the two be combined into a hyperactive Nick Robinson?

  • Comment number 24.

    Within the first twenty responses, most of which were not visible when I added my own #19, Mandelson and Oleg Deripaska feature prominently already. There are stories out there, you just need to go looking, that of course is if you have a mind to.

    Just for fun, if the regular contributors here were polled on which story they'd like Robinson to major on, I wonder what the majority would select. Actually, I don't wonder at all, I already have a pretty good idea!!

  • Comment number 25.

    "Politicians would have us believe that it was all so much easier before the era of globalisation, 24 hour news and widespread cynicis"

    When Brown tries to tell us that all of a sudden, we have become part of a global economy, it makes me want shoot the TV screen.

    No kidding Sherlock!

    Wonder if the Romans realised we were part of a global economy? So things move a bit faster these days because of improved communications - so what?!

    Labour have proved themselves very adept at managing the 24 hours news cycle. Let's be honest, Labour would have been found out years ago if it wasn't for their ability to spin.

    Gordon also has been treated very leniently by the media - given his inability to deal with the truth and the utter waste of tax payers money over 11 years and his destruction of our finances.

    In conclusion Nick - what is the point in 'discretion' ? Gordon is just dealing with historically the very common problems and issues of being British PM.

    Brown manipulates the BBC to broadcast his own agenda. Why bother with anything other than reporting the facts? To hell with discretion - he's a big boy and wanted the job enough to stab Tony in the back for it.

  • Comment number 26.

    Rahere's returning to the outstanding threads from last week, faute d'autre.

    One outstanding question was the US fundamentalist right. Some of them I've experienced have a certain foundation, most are as loopy as GWB's circle, and many ARE GWB's circle writ large. Investigate and condemn, and remember that Matthew quotation I keep spouting, big fellowships aren't usually great fellowships. Two ot three together, not two or three thousand...

    Part of the question is the same as the Church faced in Walpole's day, however: the poor and disenfranchised found no home in the Church, but found their homes in the Wesleyan revival, which started right at the end of Walpole's career.

    Another part is talking things down. Are we responsible for the slide? Only when we keep going beyond a point of rationality. The core values I was talking about are far from coming into sight, we still see honest banking a pipedream and efforts to reflate the housing bubble on the old basis. When mortgages are offered on the basis of a savings record in the German model, and not a return from 75% to 80 or 95% as discussed on Bob Peston's blog, only then will we be starting to be able to justify the value of something as opposed to its price.

    We still see loans funded at usurous turns, 1000% on the cost of the funds loaned.

    We still see no prosecution or even investigation of those responsible.

    And we still see them preaching confidence, mammon, that false God of delusion, as a criterion.

    No, until these things are put aside, until then we will see no recovery because there will be nothing to trust in.

    On the other hand, I also talked about the indications that there are longer-term plans. Go reread the texts in any case and see what they actually say. It's not incompatible.

    I talked about faith a while back. It's a first step into the well-nigh dark unknown of our future, and it's a necessary step, but it's only a little one. It's a step of trust, and trust is built from such little steps. Maybe sometime people will take big ones, but there's always someone new just learning their way, and they still take little ones. Indeed, it's from our litle ones we must learn, they trust us and we will never betray that trust: if ever we do, then all is lost. It's the same with government, we trust them and they must never betray that trust or all is lost. Sadly, that's pretty much the case now, it's time for a radical clear-out.

  • Comment number 27.

    "Discretion prevents me from adding more"
    Why? You are supposed to be a reporter, be your own man for once, and dont report what you are told to report

    After your week long break not commenting on any of the sleaze of this Government and its ministers, does speak volumes who controls you

  • Comment number 28.


    when people say that Gordon said he had abolished 'boom and bust' that I think you will find was the not the whole story, he said 'Tory boom and bust' well I would say that when the conservatives actually win an election there will be so little left that there will be no boom nor bust, it will just be bust.

  • Comment number 29.

    Is there any truth in the rumour that "GB the unelected" wants to extend the current parliament beyond May 2010, in order to give him more time to sort out the mess that he got us into since he believes that he is the only one who can get us out of it.

  • Comment number 30.

    Other than a confirmation of the fact that Gordon Brown is a prominent part of Bob's your Uncle's anatomy, what relevance does this have to the price of fish?

    Or lords, ministers and MEPs, come to that.

    Do fast-forward 300 years and give us your considered and learned views on:

    1. Brown's political future (a very small subject, I know, but still....)

    2. The Home Secretary's curious financial and domestic arrangements.

    3. Harriet Harridan's leadership ambitions.

    4. Lord Mandelson's adept manipulations of the media.

    5. The slow-motion implosion that is New Labour.

    6. The rise of the BNP as resentment grows at New Labour's mismanagement of the economy turns into a virtual campaign against the employed working classes.

    7. The unparalleled levels of national debt that will cast a shadow over the next two decades.

    Etc. etc.

  • Comment number 31.

    Hello Nick,

    Another week, another shameless plug?

    All very nicely put - you acknowledge the input of the historians from which you borrow. You're just putting a face to someone else's material. A bit like the day job, then?

  • Comment number 32.

    Is that it!! A plug for a forthcoming Radio 4 show??

    With the economy in freefall, Harman positioning, Blears openly admitting divisions within the cabinet, the wretch-inducing pictures of Brown, Sarkozy and Merkel having a group hug, LDV & Mandelson, the polls, and everything else that has happened since the last apology for a plug your radio show!?!

    I've given up with this nonsense. Good job you're not elected'd have definitely lost my vote.

    Bye all. I resign.

  • Comment number 33.

    The Walpole cartoon Nick refers to sounds most apt. Very fitting.

  • Comment number 34.

    Is there an equivalent in Walpole's government of Mandy?

    Any rich oligarchs, yachts, mortgage applications?

    Any queries about residencies?

  • Comment number 35.

    I'll look forward to this series of programmes.

    I bet it shows we never learn the lessons of history...

  • Comment number 36.

    Prime Ministers are Crime Ministers
    i know the real brothers

  • Comment number 37.

    Thanks for the history lesson. So in nearly 300 years, never have we had a more hated premier.

    Here's a parallel question for you: Did Walpole have a mandate from the British people to govern?

  • Comment number 38.

    You're damn right it isn't fun being PM. Then again Nick he and his party have spread plenty of misery around the place, it's only fair they should suffer the gloom too. Still, it doesn't stop the wannabes skulking around the cobweb strewn corridors of New Labour land as they position themselves for their turn at the job.

  • Comment number 39.

    If you DO have to look into history - equate Brown with Neville Chamberlain, the most unpopular British PM ever soon to be toppled from that post. Take that how you will but the public want him out. NOW.

  • Comment number 40.

    History could teach Brown something? You're joking aren't you? He quotes history but learns nothing from it - if the analogy were correct then Brown might have equated the housing/finacial bubble with the South Sea bubble and acted to calm things down - but he did not, suggesting you can say the words but has little understanding. If you think that harsh consider that the problems that surfaced in 2007 were not new and debt loading issues were being discussed long before then - but I don't think he was listening.

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    woah a bit of a leap comparing Al Queda to the Jacobites

    You say the restoration of a Catholic throne ?
    not really the bulk of the Scots were not Catholic at that time, just the landed Gentry, who had aspirations of power.
    Time and time again the normal people of Scotland, were shafted by the Gentry or the Church.
    All the people wanted was peace and the right to call their home, home, but the various Kings of England feared the threat of France coming in via Scotland, hence the handing out of lands and the jostle of titles and power.

    And the church was no different, at one time Scotland was the daughter of Rome, then it wasnt then it was, it was all a power game.

    There are many many kind and virtuous people in the world, some have a faith , some don't, and they have over the years been victim of the power struggles of the church and of the state.

    You will have read in history the same situation happening over and over again with times of calm in between, you would think we would have learned something by now.

    If you watched the matrix series of films, in the third film you see Neo the chosen one, and you find out he makes the same mistake time and time again, and each time civilisation is destroyed.

    after making some tough choices, this time they all live happily ever after, this is the mindset we need to get into.

  • Comment number 43.

    Police are bracing themselves for a 'summer of rage' against the economic crisis, a senior officer warned today.
    Superintendent David Hartshorn, who heads the Metropolitan Police's public order branch, said he feared there could be 'mass protest' at rising unemployment, failing financial institutions and the downturn in the economy.
    The officer told The Guardian that 'known activists' were planning returns to the streets, and intelligence revealed that they may be able to call on more protesters than normal due to the unprecedented conditions.


    It looks as though those 10,000 tasers are being plugged into their chargers even as we speak!

  • Comment number 44.

    28 - I preferred the tory boom and bust. This labour version is rubbish.

    In other news, I will still be voting Labour at the next election, Frank Field has done wonders for my home borough and the Conservatives have not done enough to persuade me that I should vote otherwise. Just a small lesson in early chicken counting there.

    Sort it out , Cameron!

  • Comment number 45.

    #41 Ilicipolero

    I apologise unreservedly to our beloved Prime Minister who is doing a splendid job in extremely trying circumstances. I realise the phrase "half wit" is grossly unfair.

    Golem is barely a quarter wit!!

  • Comment number 46.

    26. At 10:26am on 23 Feb 2009, rahere
    rahere: Have finished E Heidner' papers, now why is his thesis' not really being discussed on the following blog?

  • Comment number 47.

    Not entirely unrelated to my previous post, cause and effect, and all that:

    "Jacqui Smith has launched an astonishing defence of her decision to claim £116,000 in expenses - by insisting she could have had even more.
    The Home Secretary declared: 'The charge that is made of me is that I have tried to maximise the money that I have claimed. Well, I haven't.'
    According to official figures, however, she claimed a mere £58 less than the full amount possible over three years."

  • Comment number 48.

    Of course Nick, Gordon Brown was the only one actually to have a PHD in history. We were in the Edinburgh University history department at the same time and if, as an undergraduate, Mr Brown had taken Tom Barron's British Empire History 2 course he would have known just what a disaster Iraq would turn out to be. (He almost certainly did because his younger brother Andrew was in my BE2 class and you had to take that course if you wanted to study for an honours degree.

    And guess what. Gordon very briefly taught me British History (I) before the Head of the Arts faculty and head of the history dept George Shepperson gave him the heave ho for being such a trouble maker.And yes he was crap at that as well. Turned up with a bunch of papers and got on with his own thing while some poor sod (ie me) had to read out a 5000 word essay which Brown had already pre marked. 50 out of 100 seeing as you ask. Crap essay. Crap tutor, Crap PM. I can't wait for him to leave office. We need someone better than a failed radical socialist to lead the country at this juncture. I just wish that the Tories would get their act together. At the 2005 Labour party conference Gordon talked about there having been a bubble in the property market. Past tense. For me it just about summed up the financial illiteracy of someone who has never had any instinct for capitalism at all. Hence the late life crush on 'the market'.There is no fool like an old fool and really Gordon ought to consider his position so that we can move on as a country. It all feels so terribly undemocratic at the moment.

  • Comment number 49.


    All very interesting and thanks for the plug.. but a lot of things have been happening in your abscence...

    a. Jacqui Snith is being investigated - any news?
    b. Donations to the Tory party via Lord Ashcroft are being investigated - any news?
    c. The ownner of LDV vans (a good freind of Mr Mandelson) wants a GVN bail-out? Because of the link with our buisness secretary - is this politically possible or will 6,000 jobs be sacrified to save one (if you catch my drift).
    d. Brown has won the race to be the first European leader to meet the messiah. What has his victory cost us - extra British troops to be sent to Afganistan?
    e. Gordon has called for an end to 100% mortgages - stable door shutting - anyone.
    f. Cabinet ministers have been briefing agianst each other in the press - Harriet seems to fancy the top job.
    g. The Tories have opened up a 20% + lead in the polls; plus the Lib Dems seem to be close to over-taking Labour.
    10. The odious BNP win a council seat in Kent. Might they also take a seat in the Euro elections. Why are they gaining ground? Is this the problem with PR?

    See there are political stories around - so please could you cover a few.

  • Comment number 50.

    It was the abolition of Bills of Attainder which allowed the job of Prime Minister to evolve

    I would bring back Bills of Attainder.

    The idea that a vote in Parliament could mean the Minister, Prime or otherwise, was banged up in The Tower on a capital charge of high treason would concentrate a lot of minds and encourage others to find gainful employment in the real economy.

  • Comment number 51.

    As we are talking about history (WHY?), here is a blast from NewLabour's past, Bryan Gould. See what he thinks about Labour now:

    "I disown this governmentI have watched Labour compromise its principles, embrace greed and take the UK into war and recession. Torture is the last straw"

  • Comment number 52.

    #24 Ilicipolero

    Mandelson and Oleg

  • Comment number 53.

    Both this and the previous blog have been used to promote Nick's radio appearances.

    However, to enter in the spirit of the thing: Thus the Tory party was destroyed; weakened by its virues and lashed by events, it proved no match for Walpole; it failed totally to exploit the opportunities that came its way at the time of the South Sea crisis. It failed to provide an effective barrier to Walpole's steady progress towards a single party state. By 1725 Tories were outcasts. (J.H.Plumb The Growth of Political Stability in England 1675-1725) (abridged).

    At that time the Tories were accused of Treason (supporting the Jacobites), rather than doing nothing, and this justified a wide extension of executive power by the Whigs. Treasonous Tories might be Brown's next soundbite. Or perhaps Torture a Banker week.

  • Comment number 54.

    A week since your last post, eleven days since your last proper post.

    And then this?

    I don't think any one person would have guessed that the subject of your next post would be Robert Walpole.

    How bizarre.

  • Comment number 55.

    Brown isn't going anywhere - he hasn't waited this long to be beaten in an election!

    A bit of civil disobedience along side the depression and we will have a national emergency with democracy suspended.

    Where is that in your history stuff Nick?

    What we really need now is the full SP on oleg/mandleson (if it wouldn't be indiscrete) so we can have confidence in his dealing with the van company.

  • Comment number 56.


    Time to pay the tab for that jolly on board Olegs yacht Peter.

  • Comment number 57.

    Nick, we've seen nothing from you for a week and you re-appear giving a history lesson that does nothing more than plug your Radio 4 progamme. Perhaps Simon Mayo's show would have been a better platform.
    Can we not expect more from the BBC's Political Editor? Mandelson and Oleg Deripaska, there is where you should be looking.

  • Comment number 58.

    First time comment, having read this blog with increasing alarm over recent weeks.

    No follow up on the "Gordon for Global Financial Regulator" story which appears to have started the "Harman for next leader" furore?

    Can it be that the dour Leader’s reputation for saving the World has a taken a wee knock following the realisation that the UK is not best placed? Would this lead his crack PR team to leak “Gordon for World Leader” to the Guardian? Is this the same team which launched the highly entertaining “Tony Blair for European President”?

    For a political machine which once prided itself on its media management, this is a poor show. I will carry on laughing about it until I meet the first person who thinks it is a good idea. This may take some time because I am finding it difficult to find anyone who is prepared to admit to voting Labour.

  • Comment number 59.


  • Comment number 60.

    #51 yellowbelly1959

    A damning indictment indeed. Unfortunately the Golem's delusions will blind him into thinking that it is praise instead.

  • Comment number 61.

    RE: LDV

    So now we know why Mandleson was so miffed when the union piped up, the bright light of day falls on his plans...

    Funny that it started at £40,000,000 - now is £20,000,000 to £30,000,000.

    6000 jobs for £20,000,000 - thats only £3,400 each - if they want the jobs, they can remortgage and put the money up themselves...

    Hows that fit in with history Nick? It would avoid a repeat of the Rover rip off...

  • Comment number 62.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 63.

    "he brought it all on himself" no he brought it on us.

    Brown is the worst PM England ever had.

    The only good he represents is that he brings the end of the UK and the establishment of direct democracy for England closer.

    Home rule for England.

  • Comment number 64.

    Youve got to love him havnt you.

    He kinda epitimises NuLabours troughing so nicely, leaving no doubt as to his thoughts about the man on the street.

    Well... him and Michael Martin

  • Comment number 65.

    Thanks for the programme plug, Nick.

    Do you still do any political commentary?

    It seems the only reason you blogged today was for the plug!

  • Comment number 66.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 67.


    Anything that the Political Editor of the BBC can comment on? An awful lot has happened in the last week, surely you must have some inside information to whet our appetites. We've all waited for your thoughts on the thoughts of PM (Peter Mandelson). So disappointed that the best you can come up with is the South See Bubble.

  • Comment number 68.

    Nice cameo with Anita Nick, but hardly anything of substance.

    I think we might need a "rules of engagement" type blog so that we can more fully realise the restraints under which you work

    Then if it becomes blatantly obvious that you are unable to actually comment on home events we know the terms under which your blog entries are couched.

    It hardly serves the debate here if you are gagged from observing certain events until they become more concrete. I feel a little clarity is required.

    Hopefully with Andrew's return it'll just be first day back nerves and more comment is forthcoming on Wednesday for pmq's

    Would you, like Andrew, offer up your expense claims for public scurtiny?

  • Comment number 69.

    #17 Susan-Croft

    Hello Susan-Croft, you suggest that Gordon Brown will leave this country on it's knees and I'm inclined to agree with you although desperately hopeful that he won't.

    As a cynic, however, I'm inclined to think that this is what he intends, as ultimately, it will play into the hands of New Labour.

    To expand this theme, if you look at David Cameron, he's essentially Blair mkII and his style of politics is based upon 'positive' headlines. With the mess that's likely to be left for him, there aren't going to be an awful lot of those and he's showing no sign of becoming an old fashioned substance politician.

  • Comment number 70.

    There is precedent in deferring elections, look at the Northern Irish local elections to see how a mandate can be extended repeatedly. Their elections have just been deferred by yet another year, for administrative convenience.

    In terms of levels of corruption, they still hold the record - just. In terms of your other pointers, they're about on a par.

    As far as catholics are concerned, we just saw the last of one and now the manse is the Cardinal's Palace. Unless he was asking who takes over from O'Connor. Terminator 10, any one?

    That wasn't the best quote from him, though: "Suddenly there is the opportunity for people to mass protest." Can't have protest, now, can we?

    I've said before and I'll say again that the closest resemblance was 1381, when the people, already on their beam ends had another load of taxation dumped on them and rebelled. The only difference there is that Jack Straw at that time was leading the rebellion. and even he had a Thomas Taylor in his followers. On which count, what happened to their Lordships?

    Because that blog doesn't seem to have much in common with the leadership of two European countries having a number of common traits, none of them exactly fitting for holding public office.

    About as much chance of that as of an election deibng declared tommorrow, given that the removal of the death penalty for treason was about the first thing this lot did on gaining office. Anyway, about the only definition of treason fitting the bill is the one of killing the Chancellor. Does reducing him to a nonentity count?

    In the mean time, let's keep the reputation of the blog going autonomously. LDV, the van company being bailed out by Mandy for 40m, is owned by Oleg Deripaska, Russia's richest oligarch and a renowned yachtsman. Discuss.

  • Comment number 71.

    The Tories received £5 million from Lord Ashcroft which are now being officially investigated over whether he is officially resident in the UK to pay tax and whether the money originally came from Belize via a shell company (the sort of thing Swiss bankers advise tax dodgers to set up). What do the BBC do? A couple short reports at the weekend and then the story is buried.

    In contrast, Wendy Alexander received the massive sum of £950 from a Jersey businessman for an internal election and the media (particularly the BBC - didn't you rush out to Jersey, Nick for this story?) attacked her day after day like Rottweilers until she was forced to resign.

    This is just one of many examples where Labour scandals of whatever size are picked at day after day, while those involving the Tories are quickly dropped.

    It is clear now that the way the BBC covers a political scandal is now entirely dependent on which party commited the offence rather than what is alleged to have occurred.

    The BBC is in danger of becoming as 'fair and balanced' as FOX News.

    Surely the issue of Lord Ashcroft was a more important subject for the Daily Politics than plugging your Radio series and more mindless gossip about Harriet Harmen.

  • Comment number 72.

    Oh well... satisfaction levels with Nick's first Prime Minister blog seems low.... Perhaps he is predicting the end of Union and that this could be the last Prime Minister?

    If so, what proportion of the debt is Mr Salmond proposing to take on? He wants a relationship of equals, so will that be 50/50 then? or perhaps 25% would be fairer as a quarter of the Union?

    Nevertheless, we have learned something today, with the Met story about a Summer of rage.

    Clearly Nick's recent warzone training course did not pressage a change of post, but was just a wise precaution on the part of the BBC for his following the Home Secretary (whoever she is in the Summer) on a tour of the battleground......

  • Comment number 73.

    44. At 11:09am on 23 Feb 2009, kingloneranger wrote:
    28 - I preferred the tory boom and bust. This labour version is rubbish.

    In other news, I will still be voting Labour at the next election, Frank Field has done wonders for my home borough and the Conservatives have not done enough to persuade me that I should vote otherwise. Just a small lesson in early chicken counting there.


    You are lucky to have an honourable and effective constituency MP like Frank Field.

  • Comment number 74.

    This parody is well worth a read:

    Thanks Gordon.............

  • Comment number 75.

    Nick, what can we learn from history? Well, that this government is on its last legs:

    "The symptoms are always the same when governments break down: sleaze takes hold, the ambitious defect, ministers turn disloyal, connection with reality gets lost and it becomes a matter of hanging on pointlessly to the end.
    This state of affairs has occurred three times since World War II. The first occasion was the end of the 1951-64 Conservative Government, marked by fratricide - when senior ministers refused to serve under Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home - and public scandal such as the Profumo affair.
    The second came at the very end of the 1970s, when Cabinet members like Tony Benn manoeuvred openly for the succession in the final months of the bankrupt Jim Callaghan premiership.
    Fifteen years later and John Major's Government suffered a similar collapse. Giant rifts opened up inside Cabinet, the Government became mired in sexual and financial scandal, and ministers lost contact with the public mood.
    Gordon Brown's Government has now acquired the full symptoms of one of these fag-end administrations. The first of these is sleaze. Ministers and MPs have lost all notion of the idea of the distinction between public duty and their own, sordid private advantage.

    Of course, a handful of John Major's Tory MPs were openly on the take - but not at nearly such a high level as Labour's miscreants.
    The Major period offered nothing comparable to the Jacqui Smith scandal, with a Home Secretary making false statements in order to obtain money from the public purse (Ms Smith has still not sued me after I accused her last week of thievery: does her failure to do so amount to an admission of guilt?)
    There is one further difference between the Jacqui Smith affair and the John Major period. When ministers were caught out doing something wrong under Major, they soon resigned.
    By contrast, Gordon Brown has thrown a protective shield round the Home Secretary - an indication that, far from being hit by the occasional case of sleaze, his Government suffers it as a systemic problem.

    The second symptom of terminal decay is disloyalty. Ministers are now actively preparing their exit strategies, just as they did at the end of the Callaghan and Major period.

    The third symptom is a dark sense of unreality. It is obvious, for example, that Gordon Brown increasingly lives in some bizarre parallel world.
    As our finances collapse, he continues to insist that our economy is built on 'sound fundamentals'. The Prime Minister cannot begin to address the desperate problems Britain now faces until he accepts that something has gone very fundamentally wrong.
    The final symptom of government collapse is the most obvious one. We are at the stage where even Cabinet ministers have privately written off winning the next General Election. Instead they are beginning to position themselves for the leadership contest which will follow defeat at the polls.

  • Comment number 76.

    Interesting read, Nick. I wonder if the political editor in 300 years time will post a blog (or the form of up-to-date technology) comparing Mr. Brown of the 21st century and a PM of the 24th century? That is, if we are still ruled by the same Prime Ministerial system! I wonder how history will portrait Mr. Brown and the financial crisis?

  • Comment number 77.

    Surely, the whole point of being PM in the eighteenth century was so that one had control over the vast system of patronage which enabled oneself and one's coterie to enrich themselves. Actually doing anything was entirely subsidiary. What the South Sea Bubble, etc etc show us is that there are points on a financial cycle when politicians should intervene - unfortuantely it's almost always at the point where it is politically most difficult to do so: i.e. you appear to be interevening to prevent people from pursuing their "legitimate interests" to better themselves.

  • Comment number 78.

    Thank God! Lord Mandie has let Nick make another entry!

  • Comment number 79.

    So, too Sir Robert Walpole. The terror threat of his day came not from al-Qaeda but from the Jacobites who were intent on restoring a Catholic to the throne of England.


    The difference is even then our essential liberties were not stolen from us in such a way as this ZanuLabour party has- 42 days detention without charge? What the hell happened to due process? Innocent till proven guilty?

    The law courts have went the same way as 'Beeb' neutrality- its dead. And Zanu Labour rien supreme.

  • Comment number 80.

    How about a story on Jade Goody, Nick?

  • Comment number 81.

    Fascinating stuff!

    Can we have something about the Armada next... or my favorite, Henry VIII?


  • Comment number 82.

    Hi Nick

    I wish you well with your programme and agree that Walpole was a fascinating character.

    One issue though; may i be rude enough to enquire as to what your job description is?
    After your blogs this week and last I think that licence payers have a right to know.

  • Comment number 83.

    That LDV's only the tip of the iceberg. The whole iceberg reveals a very unpretty picture, if only because we seem to have been dragged in to bail out a RUSSIAN bubble.

    Deripaska's using that 4.5 billion RBS loan to refinance his Rusal aluminium business , as the value of his holdings now appear to have dropped dramatically from 40bn to 5 bn or so and he has 20bn debts to cover.

    Added to that, there's the lawsuit from Michael Cherney claiming 20% of the Rusal stock allegedly entailed by Roman Abramovich , being heard in the UK against the better wishes of Mr Justice Clarke, which has shown another 10% of the company is held by an alleged Russian mobster, Andrei Malevski. Deripaska in return accusess them both of running protection extorsion rackets, which Cherney obviously denies.

    In connection with my other recent postings, in 2002 Cherney published a book on the victims of the Tel Aviv Dolphnarium terror attack. Wikipedia quotes the leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Avigdor Liberman, and probable kingmaker in the recent Israeli elections, as saying: "3,000 years ago Israel was fighting against Philistines who sacrificed their children to their gods. This book confirms that once again Israel has encountered the ancient evil: we are fighting Palestinians who sacrifice children - both theirs and ours - on the altar of jihad." Interesting...go look up those references.

  • Comment number 84.

    and will your program be covering Walpole's promises to the electorate.?

    Did he promise to abolish boom and bust?

    Did he promise to end child poverty?

    Did he promise to be a rock of stability?

    Did he promise to end the culture of spin?

    Did he promise education, education, education?

    Did he break all his promises just like Gordon Brown and newlabour have?

    Call an election. This is an embarrassment to us all.

  • Comment number 85.

    You can learn a lot from history, and most of you lot need to, - for example, here's a quotation from Tony Benn in the seventies:

    "These lessons led me to the conclusion that the UK is only superficially governed by MPs and the voters who elect them. Parliamentary democracy is, in truth, little more than a means of securing a periodical change in the management team, which is then allowed to preside over a system that remains in essence intact. If the British people were ever to ask themselves what power they truly enjoyed under our political system they would be amazed to discover how little it is, and some new Chartist agitation might be born and might quickly gather momentum."

    So, forget the Tories - bring back the Chartists!

  • Comment number 86.

    Once again we have yet another set of (un)sound bites from our increasingly hapless Prime Minister, most of which contradict his comments of the past few weeks.

    When are we going to have a BBC correspondent with the courage to ask Mr. Brown the questions that most people on these blogs want answered, and continue to ask him until a satisfactory response is forthcoming?

    P.S In these dark days, the following which was overheard in a supermarket might bring a smile:

    "I dunno 'ow Gordon Brown can claim to have put an end to 'booming busts'. Obviously 'e ain't seen Jordan and Victoria Beckham's over-inflated assets."

  • Comment number 87.

    Instead of blowing off on Walpole Nick maybe you could tell us why the BBC is going over the top welcoming an Ethiopian citizen to Britain, who may have been a terrorist in Afghanistan, and indeed may have been responsible for the death of British or allied soldiers. You should be asking why he has been returned to Britain, why not sent to Ethiopia and why we the British taxpayers are going to have to support him, and no doubt finance the civil rights lawyers he will probably employ to sue us for compensation for allowing him to be captured in a war zone.

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 89.

    Is it surprising that the BBC can no longer be trusted to tell us, its licence payers, what's happening, and to challenge those in power, with the facts?

    I've seen the cosy relationship between Prime Ministers and BBC correspondents at press conferences. First name terms, jokey atmosphere etc. The questions are easily sidestepped.

    That is not what we're paying for. 'Balance' between the parties isn't good enough. There is in reality, no equality between Government and Opposition. First and foremost it is the duty and responsibility of the media, and above all, the public service broadcasters, to hold the government to account for its failures and inform us of them.

    It appears to me that the BBC is too interested in maintaining the 'correct' political balance... a little criticism of Labour here, then the Tories there, etc. It should be criticism and exposure when and where appropriate and necessary. Its in the public interest that it fulfils that role. It isn't happening.

    The BBC has been tamed, right at the top. It is insipid. Its outrageous that we have to rely on a multiplicity of other (foreign) news channels to get nearer the truth of what is happening here, and what the British government has been up to. Its not what I pay 139 pounds a year for.

    Criticism already expressed by others of the subject matter of this blog is justified.

  • Comment number 90.


    What a wonderful man you are. Not only do you write wonderful blogs, but you produce wonderful programmes, all of which are overseen by wonderful producers and moderators. (#11 refers)

    However, can I make a suggestion which is of course meant in the most constructive way. We are in the midst of the worst downturn (recesssion / depression) in over 60 years (or is that 300 years). Jobs are being lost, people made jobless/homeless, tax revenues are falling off a cliff, while all the time we spend and borrow more. Is it possible that somewhere in the Political correspondent department of the BBC there is a reporter with an ounce of nounce who gets this? Or are you all too busy listening to the violin music?

    I agree with #32. C Ya - wouldn't want to B Ya.

  • Comment number 91.

    Perhaps Nick would care to do the job the licence fee payers pay him to do, and give us some honest political blogging?

    Such as, why he won't discuss Mandelson's visit to Deripaska's yacht, considering we now have:

    1. A suspicious reduction in aluminium tariffs, on multiple occasions.

    2. A company owned by Deripaska now seeking £40m bailout from the government, man in charge of relevant department being.....yes you guessed it, it's him again. The disgraced, unelected business secretary Mandelson.

    Come on, Nick, report on the real issues, and not Walpole please.

    If I want Walpole, I'll go read my encyclopaedia.

  • Comment number 92.

    78. At 1:37pm on 23 Feb 2009, deanthetory wrote:
    Thank God! Lord Mandie has let Nick make another entry!


    I think you could have phrased that better!

    Then again, maybe not!!

  • Comment number 93.

    How Mandelson has the gall to waste £80,000 of taxpayers' money on giving his office a makeover during harsh economic times when we should be saving money is beyond me.

    I fail to see how it is possible that people will still be willing to vote in a party with such characters in it (not that anyone will be voting for Mandelson of course).

    It really is time to start prosecuting politicians for scandalous expenditure like this. If not immediately, then after the next election.

    Or the Police may be right.....there may well be rioting on the streets of London.

  • Comment number 94.

    What is this twaddle?

  • Comment number 95.

    81. At 1:50pm on 23 Feb 2009, The_Lone_Whinger wrote:
    Fascinating stuff!

    Can we have something about the Armada next... or my favorite, Henry VIII?


    Or his successor, Henry VII!

    I know that to be a fact, I learned it from David Lammy, Minister for Higher Education.

  • Comment number 96.

    Nick - don't blame the man in Minnesota or the bank that lent that money. Northern Rock had no exposure to him. This recession is a failure of regulation and it is Gordon's fault.

  • Comment number 97.

    @ 71. At 1:03pm on 23 Feb 2009, PaulR494,

    Re Lord Ashcroft and BBC Bias. Whilst I maintain that the overall coverage is biased towards the labour party, I am somewhat perplexed by the Lack of Lord Ashcroft coverage. I wonder what associations, think-tanks, secret-societies he shares memberships with others in senior positions in the BBC.?

    Why would a BBC that is on occasion openly hostile to the tories, NOT be all over this like a starving dog on a rare fillet steak???

    What does Lord Ashcroft know?

  • Comment number 98.

    You don't think we'll have the security forces en mass in London? Only today the Met have announced they're ready for a "Summer of Rage". I do hope thats a sly attempt to get that negative bit of news past your political officer.

    I guess that although the two Prime Ministers aren't facing the same issues, it DOES show that nothing really changes and there are MPs that use parliament to feather their nests, build up significant bank balances at taxpayers expense and use terror as a way of manipulating government.

    Any chance you might comment on how Jaqui Smith and Chris Grayling seem to have used the same speech writer this weekend? I'm betting the talk of curfews for youths if implemented wouldn't take long to extend to curfews for everyone.

    After all, nanna government wants you all tucked up in bed when it gets dark and not out enjoying yourself.

    If the two main parties sound so alike, just who do you vote for? Looks like a lot of people think the BNP.....

  • Comment number 99.

    Ah, Nick Robinson's History Blog. He'll be on Time Team next.

    Here's a thought, considering the majority on here seem to be of the opinion that this is either 1. a waste of time, space and our license fee or 2. diversionary tactics on the remote hope that we only get our 'news' from the BBC and we don't actually know what is going on, or 3. Nick isn't up to the job description.....

    Just don't post anything, at all, not another word until Mr R comes up with something relevant to today rather than the 18th Century.

    Dare you

  • Comment number 100.

    Mr. Robinson, are you the B.B.C.'s political editor or not? Two Mondays running you have given us a load of 'old tut'. Nothing at all on politics.

    I read about Tony Blair Associates on my computer.
    I heard about Derepaska, Head of Gaz of Russia, and the request for A BRIDGING LOAN for LDV vans, on independant radio news broadcast.

    In the role in which you equate yourself, I truly believe that you should have been at the forefront with these stories, plus an update on the Home Secretary's expenses, Leader of H of C and her glory bid etc.

    Certainly not a reference to your broadcast on linquistics [16th] and a history lesson [23rd]; no real stories then?


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