Let’s face it. Gordon’s real problem is that he’s just too Scottish. A lot of the recent sniping at his driven, dour, brooding and ‘uncollegiate’ nature is code for Brown’s unreconstructed Caledonianism. Why don’t they just come out and admit it?
Many Labour politicians are open about the nationality issue in private. Some of them are Scottish themselves.
Blairites don’t really think Brown is a socialist who’ll turn the clock back on new Labour. The Chancellor practically invented new Labour and is in many respects more neo-liberal than Blair. What they fear is that he will revive ‘southern discomfort’ among the English lower middle classes.
They think that much of David Cameron’s appeal – as registered in Friday’s Guardian/ICM poll’ – is a reflection of this latent hostility to the beetle-browed Scot. “He just makes people feel uncomfortable”, as one ex-Labour minister put it.
“Bulldog ” Brown’s recent embarrassing attempts to affirm his “Britishness” betray his own anxiety that nationality is his Achilles heal. Brown made himself a laughing stock in Scotland during the World Cup by saying his favourite sporting moment was an English goal against Scotland and that he wanted to see a Cross of St George in every Scottish garden. That kind of Uncle Tom tokenism fools no one.
Blairites think the Tories will relentlessly target Brown’s Scottishness and they’re probably right. Cameron’s ‘team stop Brown’ is working on plans to undermine the Chancellor’s right to be in government at all.
Since he sits for a Scottish seat, Tories will argue, Brown should not become Prime Minister on constititutional grounds. He’d impose policies on England which have no impact on his own Scottish constituents. “English votes they cry, for English laws!”. Scottish MPs should not be able to vote on English bills, like variable tuition fees, when they don’t apply in devolved Scotland
The irony of Brown’s plans to devolve the NHS is of course that it will stop at the Border, as did Blair’s market reforms to health and education. Some conspiracists think that Brown only supported devolution in the first place so that he could create a socialist homeland in Scotland, which would be immune to modernisation.
Pure fantasy of course. Brown loathes the Labour First Minister, Jack McConnell and all he stands for. But the level of paranoia in Labour right now is beyond reason. A tribal war has broken out, which has robbed the party of its senses.
Anyone with an ounce of political nous can see that Brown is Labour’s best indeed its only hope. He’s the longest serving and most successful Chancellor in 200 years. The only thing that’s gone right is the economy.
It’s Labour’s USP.
It’s not as if there’s an alternative. Brown is an internationally respected figure, praised by everyone from Bill Clinton to the World Bank. Alan Johnson is a postman.
Yet the Blairites and their press tribunes seem determined to ‘scotch’ Brown’s chances by conducting a rebarbative running commentary on his alleged character flaws and his offensiveness to English sensibilities.
Yes, for the first time in my adult lifetime, race has become the key issue in British politics. And Labour has pressed the self-destruct button.