One good way of judging any leader is the quality of their appointments.  All of Brown’s big appointments are looking suspect.

Most of his ‘big tent picks’ are backfiring:

  • Alan West disagrees with the Government’s detention-without-trial plans (before u-turning).
  • Lord (Digby) Jones won’t take the Labour whip and has failed to vote in 22 of 23 divisions since he was enobled.
  • The Spectator reveals that Mr Brown is himself regretting appointing Lord Malloch-Brown to the Foreign Office.

More significant are the failings of Mr Brown’s most senior appointments…

  • Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has had a terrible fortnight.  David Davis humiliated her in the Commons last week and this week her stock fell further after her attempts to cover-up the extent to which illegal immigrants had been cleared for security jobs were revealed.  In today’s Daily Mail Amanda Platell concludes that Ms Smith has no real intellect, courage or integrity.  Brown is desperate to keep The Mail onside and will worry at Ms Platell’s judgment.  She is seen as a growing influence on Editor Paul Dacre’s thinking.
  • Chancellor Alistair Darling has introduced changes to Capital Gains Tax that have upset entrepreneurs in every corner of Britain.  He has even upset leading Brown donor, Sir Ronald Cohen.  Sir Ronald has called for a change of policy.  A deeper problem for Mr Darling is Northern Rock.  Vince Cable asked the right questions at PMQs on Wednesday.  The scale of taxpayer lending to this troubled bank is worryingly high.
  • Foreign Secretary David Miliband had to suffer scorn from his own benches during his poor performance in Monday’s foreign affairs speech.  In the last twenty four hours he has had to suffer the humilation of Downing Street briefing against him (Martin Kettle writes about it here).  Milibandites are, in turn, suspected of briefing against Malloch Brown to The Spectator.

Mr Brown can neither pick a good team nor manage one.  Peter Oborne writes about Mr Brown’s reluctance to seriously back ministers in trouble (Jacqui Smith this week), his eagerness to steal their most high profile work (his decision to give Wednesday’s terror plans statement) and his pampering of favoured colleagues (Ed Balls).  Oborne’s conclusion:

"[Gordon Brown] was always extremely divisive in Cabinet. He concentrated only on his own successes, and always gave the impression that he did not take pleasure in the achievements of others, even when they benefited the Government.  This narrow and ruthlessly selfish attitude can carry a man or woman right to the top in politics.  But once the summit has been reached, such characteristics undermine those qualities needed for successful leadership.  I very much hope this is not the case with Gordon Brown, but there are some worrying signs. One thing is, however, quite certain.  If he is to restore his increasingly fragile and battered premiership, then he must attend as a matter of extreme urgency to his deeply flawed methods of man management."

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