Wikileaks: US – Brown ‘lurched from disaster to disaster’
New revelations from the Wikileaks cables show US diplomats’ dismissive attitude towards Gordon Brown’s ‘rudderless’ premiership.
Cables from Robert Tuttle, US ambassador to London in the last days of George W. Bush’s presidency, commented on Labour’s prospects after its “terrible” by-election defeat to the SNP in Glasgow in July 2008.
He wrote: “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.”
Embassy reports during the 2008 Labour spring conference in Birmingham noted how Labour were desperately missing the charisma of Mr Brown’s predecessor.
The report added the party was suffering from “a feeling of post-Blair rudderlessness. Even though Blair ended up unpopular, he was the sun around which the party orbited, and his speeches, no matter the content, sparked an emotional response.
“Brown’s earnest and praiseworthy vision excites no opposition and yet it seems to excite no great enthusiasm either.”
The cables also mooted David Miliband to replace Mr Brown, noting the “frisson of excitement” whenever he appeared before conference. Eventual successor Ed Miliband did not elicit a mention.
Mr Tuttle wrote a series of pen portraits of the Labour front bench to assess potential Brown challengers.
He reserved most attention for David Miliband calling him “a high-flying young member of the government whose name inevitably tops ‘future leader lists’, with some going as far as to call him labour’s ‘heir apparent’.
“His Labour credentials are impeccable and his intellect unquestioned. Some consider Miliband, whose nickname at number 10 was ‘egghead’, as too brainy to be leader.”
Deputy party leader Harriet Harman got slightly lees effusive praise as a “relative policy lightweight but an adept interparty operator”. Mr Tuttle also noted the “rough ride” she received from the media for her stance on equality.
The diplomat even suggested potential for veteran Jack Straw, who left the frontbench in September.
Ed Balls is described as “super bright” while current shadow chancellor Alan Johnson, whose disagreements with his current leader are dominated media coverage of the party at present, is described a politician who “pushes all the right buttons” but one who has a “lack of killer instinct”.
US frustration with the former prime minister becomes clear as it also emerged that Mr Brown used a Thanksgiving phone call to ambassador Louis Susman last year to push for a Tobin tax on financial transactions, “despite being fully aware of U.S. opposition to the tax”.
In the run-up to the election Mr Tuttle spoke of Mr Brown’s “abysmal track record” in government and appeared to predict his political demise.
The Wikileaks revelations continue to deluge the media, despite the site temporarily disappearing as its domain name provider shut it down after pressure from governments and cyber-attacks.