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Britain’s Brown

Will a Gordon Brown premiership of Great Britain be worth the ten-year wait?

June 27, 2007

Will a Gordon Brown premiership of Great Britain be worth the ten-year wait?

Britain has had a prime minister-in-waiting for what seems like well over a decade. With Tony Blair finally handing over the reigns to his Chancellor of the Exchequer today, some are wondering whether Gordon Brown may have been kept waiting too long. We examine what the world’s movers and shakers are saying about Britain’s new prime minister.

What is the prevailing view of Mr. Brown?

“Mr. Brown gives the strong impression that he thinks of little else but his eventual elevation to the premiership.”
(Philip Stevens, Financial Times columnist, May 2003)

What is the essence of his political instincts?

“An instinctive Atlanticist who has kept Britain out of the euro zone.”
(Dan Bilefsky, International Herald Tribune correspondent, October 2006)

What is a less charitable assessment?

“Gordon Brown is a formidable hater. No slight or insult is ever forgotten or forgiven. Once an enemy, always an enemy.”
(Bagehot column in The Economist, March 2007)

How is peculiar about the Blair-Brown relationship?

“This is a minister who apparently sees himself as chief executive of UK plc, while the prime minister is chairman, possibly a non-executive one.”
(Robert Peston, business editor for BBC News, September 1998)

What is perhaps the most important similarity between Brown and Blair?

“The two men share a rather 19th century belief in Britain’s global role. The common assumption is that — though long ago stripped of empire — Britain remains a powerful force for good in the world.”
(Philip Stephens, Financial Times columnist, January 2007)

In terms of style, how do the two men differ?

“Brown is a colder fish, more intellectual and calculating than Blair. He lacks Blair’s charisma and deeply felt convictions about world affairs.”
(Reginald Dale, senior fellow in the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, September 2006)

How else?

“Blair is the bright and tidy one who attracts support with a cheering and personable approach. Brown is the dark, shambling one who commands allegiance with a formidable intellect and disciplined appeals to people’s sense of duty.”
(Warren Hoge, New York Times correspondent, December 2002)

What has Gordon Brown long viewed as his central challenge since becoming chancellor?

“Some countries have high levels of growth — without the social inclusion the extent they would like to see it. Other countries have social protection systems — without high levels of growth. The challenge is to combine growth and social cohesion.”
(June 1997)

Unlike many European leaders, has Brown embraced globalization?

“The issue is not whether we have globalization. It is whether we manage it well or badly, fairly or unfairly.”
(December 2001)

What is his vision for Europe?

“A Global Europe that looks out to the world will embrace free trade and reject the ‘new protectionism.'”
(October 2005)

Why does Brown see the need for a more open Europe?

“Globalization forces the European Union to shift from an old, often inward-looking trade bloc to a flexible, reforming, open and globally oriented Europe able to master the economic challenge from Asia and America.”
(November 2003)

Does he view Britain as a model for the rest of Europe?

“I think that increasingly people in Europe are looking at a British framework for stability and economic reform.”
(November 2003)

How would a Brown-Bush relationship differ from the Blair-Bush partnership?

“Mr. Brown’s liberal positioning in the U.S. political spectrum and the more intellectual approach he would bring to 10 Downing Street will not make for an easy transition for Mr. Bush.”
(Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, February 2007)

Would Gordon Brown be likely to decentralize power if elected prime minister?

“For a decade, he has operated via a tiny group of lieutenants, destroying his foes and accumulating power with ruthlessness. And all this simply to hand power back to others? Well, we shall see.”
(Matthew d’Ancona, editor of the Spectator, January 2007)

Is he reluctant for his country to adopt the euro?

“We will not take risks with Britain’s hard-won stability.”
(June 2001)

What will determine whether Britain joins the eurozone?

“The assessment as to whether it is in the British national economic interest or not will be comprehensive and rigorous. There are five economic tests: first, sustainable convergence between Britain and the economies of a single currency. Second, whether there is sufficient flexibility to cope with economic change. Third, the effect on investment. Fourth, the impact on our financial services industry. And fifth, whether it is good for employment.”
(November 2001)

Have these “five tests” been well received by the EU?

“The notion that Gordon Brown’s ‘five tests’ represent absolute economic truth, unsullied and Olympian, is drivel.”
(Chris Patten, then-EU Commissioner for Security and Foreign Affairs, May 2003)

As prime minister, what should Gordon Brown fear?

“What Gordon Brown needs to worry about the most is that, by the time Tony Blair finally leaves office and hands over the reins to Brown, the windfall profits stemming from Britain’s economic boom will have been used up.”
(Stephan Richter, publisher and editor-in-chief of May 2006)

What would Brown as prime minister be akin to?

“Ultimately, Brown’s arrival in office has a touch about it of Prince Charles finally becoming Britain’s king.”
(Transatlantic analyst, April 2007)

And finally,what is unique about the transfer of power from Blair to Brown?

“It’s not his fault, but the fact that he is running against no one inevitably makes the entire affair seem slightly North Korean.”
(Ann Treneman, columnist for the Times of London, June 2007)