Opinion by Michael Fabricant MP.
EXPOSING THE STARK CONTRASTS BETWEEN TB AND GB
Three months into Tony Blair?s premiership, Ken Clarke was asked whether he would make a good Prime Minister. Ken Clarke answered ?Ask me when he has had to deal with a crisis?. I am unaware if Ken was ever asked again.
But friends of mine working in Downing Street now paint a stark contrast between Tony Blair under pressure and Gordon Brown. Tony Blair?s private parliamentary secretary once commented to me about the erstwhile PM: ?The thing about Tony is what you see is what you get. There is no side to him?. In my experience, that is true.
Tony Blair is not a details man. He has always gone for what he might call the bigger picture and has followed his instincts. Sometimes he has made bold decisions, often too hastily with regrettable results, but no-one could call him indecisive. He knew what he stood for.
And Blair had a sunny disposition. Even when things were bad for the PM, as they eventually became, he still had a friendly word for the staff at Number 10 whether they were the Director of Strategy or a typist.
It is so very different now. The mood in Downing Street is dark and thunderous. Staff avoid Gordon Brown in the corridor. There is no cheery greeting or smile; and Frank Field, well able to look after himself, is not the only one to have been at the short end of one of Gordon?s shouting rages. It seems that the Prime Minister is now demanding new policy initiatives to improve the Labour ?brand?. But as a Downing Street insider said to me ?It?s not new policies we need to improve the brand; it?s a new Prime Minister. But no-one?s got the guts to tell him the obvious?.
But I am beginning to realise that a sunny disposition is not the only difference between our present Prime Minister and his predecessor.
Gordon Brown is obsessed with detail. His personality was better suited to be Chancellor of the Exchequer even though his tax and spend policies have left our coffers empty and unable to deal with the current financial downturn. (And to think that he kept chanting: ?No more return to boom and bust?. It?s always dangerous to believe your own propaganda). Numbers are not subtle: two and two always makes four. What has become apparent over the months is that Gordon Brown finds it difficult to make judgements when faced with uncertainty. So back in October he hesitated when he could not be sure he would win a General Election even though pundits now tell us he almost certainly would have.
And like all bullies, he backs down when faced with a challenge. So now, 6 months later, his constant dithering, policy U-turns, and submission to demands from his back benches have become ever more frequent. The political ?big beast? now looks more like a mortally wounded animal.
Even Gordon Brown?s competence as a Chancellor, has been put in the spotlight. He has enjoyed 10 years of world economic stability caused mainly by deflation in the cost of many goods produced in the manufacturing giants of China and India. Those days are now ending as we now witness soaring prices.
Boris Johnson?s win in London and Labour?s thrashing in the local elections demonstrate vividly that the Conservatives have become electable. In two days, voters will hit the ballot boxes in Crewe and Nantwich after the sad death of Gwyneth Dunwoody ? a lady whom, incidentally, I seconded in her bid for Speaker.
If Labour?s 7,078 majority is severely dented or even lost on Thursday, Gordon Brown must ask himself if he was truly wise to have knifed Tony Blair.