Just back from Michael Gove’s speech to the Bow Group. It was terrific stuff. Read the full text here.
Mr Gove paints Mr Brown as someone afraid of the future, untrusting of all but a small clique of protégés, unable to reform himself or the centralised state that he has created. He is living in the shadow of Blair, he argues:
"Whether it’s been Neville Chamberlain after Baldwin, Eden after
Churchill or Bush senior after Reagan, the successor model has never
quite recaptured the excitement of the first. They have been Roger
Moores cast to replace the original Sean Connery – with the best will
in the world the same quality isn’t there."
In a clever passage he ridicules the Prime Minister’s promise of "personalised" public services:
"Like those letters from direct mail companies that begin with our
Christian name but have the same centrally-generated content, or cold
calls from marketing companies which affect intimacy but operate to a
tightly-ordered script, the Government’s "personalised" public services
offer just the level of distinctiveness the centralised bureaucracy
consider necessary to make us feel looked after. But without that
proper responsiveness to our needs which puts us in control."
Michael Gove’s most compelling insight into Brown is, however, to understand him as a calculating, obsessive politician (the same message that William Hague delivered at the Party Conference). Gove said:
"The Prime Minister and his closest colleagues spent the summer not
preparing for the next century but positioning themselves for an
electoral contest. That’s why we had the opportunism of a trip to Iraq where our soldiers
were used to dress the set for a pre-election announcement on troop
numbers, the co-option of slogans such as British jobs for British
workers which a man as intelligent as the Prime Minister must wince
every time he deploys and Jack Straw’s shameless embrace of proposals
to give individuals the right to self-defence which he spent all his
time rubbishing when he was Home Secretary. These were tactical feints,
designed to throw the media, and the Conservatives, off-balance rather
than win converts for a newly-refurbished politics of the left. And that’s because there is no newly-refurbished politics of the Left,
simply an itch to centralise and a faith in bureaucratic control which
speaks of nothing so much as an attachment to power itself."
Before Gordon Brown became Prime Minister Fraser Nelson told me that the best way to understand Gordon Brown was as an obsessive politico – he thinks of his political advantage from the moment that he wakes until the moment he goes to sleep. He schemes and calculates all day long. If you don’t believe Michael or Fraser, just ask Tony.
PS I’m quite proud of my photograph of Michael Gove! Early next week CH will have uploaded the best photographs we’ve taken of Tory politicians over the last two years for public use.
3.30pm: What other blogs are saying about the speech:
Ben Brogan: "Mr Brown, he says, is the latest is in a tradition of tragic historical figures, idealists forced by the imperative of clinging to power to abandon what they once believed in: Lloyd George, LBJ, Mitterand. "In all these cases, when they fell there was not just a sense of an old order passing which had lingered too long, there was also a recognition that behind the swell and grandeur of their administration there was a hollowness, a series of empty exercises in manipulation."
Matt d’Ancona: "Gove’s portrait is of a man of passionate idealism driven to make a series of historic compromises which “in his heart” he did not believe in at all. Brown centralised power to win support for Labour’s tax and spend agenda by command and control. The result, however, was falling productivity in the NHS and education and demoralised health and education professionals, exhausted and demeaned by bureaucratic control."