Brown v. Nixon
Matthew Parris in The Times commented here at the weekend that the media comparison of Gordon Brown and Richard Nixon is an insult ... to Richard Nixon.
His argument is that Nixon had real achievements - going to China, ending the Vietnam War - while Brown merely uses spin to generate newspaper headlines about programmes that never happen or only deliver miniscule results.
Trying very hard to be fair to Brown, it seems to me that his legacy will have two major good elements and six bad ones
1) Gave the Bank of England control of interest rate and monetary policy, thereby ensuring that the golden economic legacy Brown inherited from Ken Clarke lasted nearly ten years. That's his one major positive acheivement.
2) Stopped Tony from scrapping the Pound: without GB's delaying tactics it is likely that Tony Blair would have scrapped the pound and bounced Britain into the Euro before it became obvious that this would have been a really bad idea.
1) Wrecked Pensions: GB's £5 billion a year raid on pension funds had dire copnsequences for the entire pension industry, and along with his over-complicated pensions credit and a tax policy which punishes saving, has contributed to a serious shortfall in the money put aside to fund pensions. In the words of Frank Field, we have gone from having one of the strongest pension provisions in Europe to one of the worst.
2) Damaged Bank Regulation: Gordon Brown took regulation and supervision of Banks away from the Bank of England which had done it successfully for decades and gave it to the FSA and other new bodies on whose watch things have gone terribly wrong. This mistake did not cause the present banking crisis and recession but it almost certainly made it worse.
3) Sold off Gold Reserves at the bottom of the market costing the taxpayer a fortune
4) Failed to keep borrowing under control when the economy was growing with the result that it is now dangerously high during the slump.
5) Blocked most of Tony Blair's better ideas: As well as the bad idea of joining the Euro, some good parts of TB's reform agenda like giving schools and hospitals more genuine independence were casualties of the decade long tension between Blair and Brown
6) Made the culture of spin and smears even worse.
Almost every Prime Minister has a fixer and one or more "Attack Dogs." Margaret Thatcher had Willie Whitelaw as her fixer and Norman Tebbit and Sir Bernard Ingham as her attack dogs. Tony Blair had various fixers, his attack dog was Alastair Campbell.
Gordon Brown's equivalent was Damian MacBride - the only person in British politics who makes Alistair Campbell look like Mother Theresa of Calcutta. He may or may not have known about the specific emails which brought MacBride down, but there is no possibility that he was unaware of what sort of man one of his closest associates was. For a decade Brown's dirty tricks department has been putting the boot into Labour rivals, and occasionally external opponents, and contributed to a toxic political culture which will be one of the hardest things for his successor to change.
May that work begin as soon as possible.