Gordon Brown 'lurched from disaster to disaster'
Published 03/12/2010 | 13:05
Gordon Brown was dismissed as an "abysmal" prime minister by the US embassy in London within a year of taking office, diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show.
George Bush’s last ambassador wrote that Mr Brown lurched from “political disaster to disaster” in a period of “rudderlessness” after Tony Blair’s departure from Downing Street in 2007.
The embassy fired off a volley of cables in the wake of Labour’s “terrible" by election defeat to the Scottish National party in Glasgow East.
Robert Tuttle, Bush’s last ambassador to London, wrote in a cable on July 31 2008, a week after the byelection: “As Gordon Brown lurches from political disaster to disaster. Westminster is abuzz with speculation about whether he will be replaced as prime minister and Labour party leader, and, if so, by whom.
“A terrible byelection defeat … has left the Labour party reeling and fuelled fears among MPs that Brown’s leadership of the party, and his premiership, may now be beyond repair.”
He concluded: “We don’t see a clear tipping point on the horizon – but given Brown’s abysmal track record over the last year, that day could come when Labour MPs return from vacations in late August/early September.”
Mr Tuttle’s cables included pen portraits of several Labour figures who could succeed Brown, but excluded Ed Miliband, the then Energy and Climate Change Secretary, who now leads the party.
David Miliband, then Foreign Secretary, was described as a “high flyer” with “impeccable” Labour credentials, while Ed Balls, then Schools Secretary, was described as “super bright” but “dull” and “charmless”.
Harriet Harman, then Leader of the House of Commons, was dubbed a “policy lightweight”.
The diplomatic cables also reveal that one policy initiative by Gordon Brown on a national security strategy was “greeted with a collective yawn” by the US embassy.
Another dispatch discloses that Nick Brown, Labour’s then deputy chief whip, assured the embassy that the administration would “slap down” any threat to the prime minister.
Barack Obama’s allies were also irritated by Mr Brown, the cables show. The former prime minister’s decision to interrupt a Thanksgiving call to the current president’s ambassador to lobby for a Tobin tax on currency exchanges caused particular offence.
Prime minister Brown continues to press hard … despite being fully aware of US opposition to the tax,” Louis Susman wrote in December last year.
The embassy’s view of Brown improved in the autumn of 2008 when he led the way in recapitalising banks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. In a cable on October 15, 2008 , the acting minister counsellor Kathleen Doherty wrote: “After a year of plummeting poll numbers and questions about his ability to lead, Gordon Brown is suddenly riding high.”
Within months, however, the embassy described Labour as a “sinking ship” in the wake of the Damian McBride “smeargate” scandal.
Greg Berry, a US political consellor, reported in May 2009 that Brown had suffered a “wretched two weeks” after Mr McBride’s resignation following allegations that he tried to plant smears against the Tories.
“A wounded, but still standing, Gordon Brown remains at the helm of his party and is likely to do so until the voters speak in the next election,...The man who has nursed his dream – and grievance – of being prime minister since 1994 is not going to walk out of Downing Street now.”