Gordon Brown is odds-on to be prime minister by 2008. How different from Blair would he be? What are his foreign policy ideas? What about his adamantine personality and his Scottishness? Admirers and critics speculateby Irwin Stelzer / October 23, 2004 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2004 issue of Prospect Magazine
Statist but prudent
by Irwin Stelzer
Rupert Murdoch’s unofficial ambassador to Britain sees little to fear in a Brown premiership
It is not certain that Gordon Brown is headed for No 10 – the only person who might know when the job will be open is Tony Blair, and he isn’t saying. Besides, Blair is not in complete control of the timing: even if he decides that he needs another full term to accomplish his goals, there is always the possibility that events might intervene to put Brown into No 10 at some point during the next parliament.
At present Brown has no serious rival. But he is essentially a one-issue politician – he has delivered a robust economy, one that appears to have reduced unemployment and, along with a rapid-fire series of tax increases, has provided a big supply of funds for the expansion of the public sector. If there is a recession – and at some point there will be one – the chancellor will become vulnerable to the many enemies he has made among his colleagues by making clear the gap between their IQs and his. (The inevitability of a recession is also a reason for Brown wanting to get his hands on the crown sooner rather than later; inheriting the premiership with the economy tottering and the Tories rejuvenated would not be fun.)
But one would demand long odds to bet against the proposition that Brown will one day inherit Tony Blair’s job. Blair will probably want to cap his career in another, global, job – UN secretary-general? – or secure his beloved family’s financial future (the prime minister aspires to a higher material standard of living than does the son of a man of the manse).
To register an informed guess about how different Brown would be from Blair once in No 10, we must start by disposing of two popular misconceptions about both men. It is simply wrong to think of Blair as the sizzle and Brown as the steak. That underestimates both the former’s substan…