Time for a brownout – please

A letter in today’s Times wonders if the Government is experiencing a brownout, which the writer says is when power and performance are severely reduced, with total malfunction rather than outright failure.

Even some of those who voted for him (that is, the Labour members – the rest of us were given no say in the matter) must be finding the conjunction of brown and out in the same sentence to be a tempting thought.

It is not just that Gordon Brown is a dishonest and unpleasant man – they knew that. They might have guessed also that he would crack under pressure. My prediction on the day he took office (in The Monster Dances) was

The big, clunking fist, the pounding repetition of the phrases which he wants us to hear regardless of relevance or context, the loss of any coherent argument in the fury at having to justify himself, this will be Brown’s reaction to criticism..

..but I claim no particular prescience for this. This is how he behaved as Chancellor on the rare occasions when he could not run away and hide in the Treasury.

What they cannot have predicted was the sequence of disasters. Leaving aside the natural ones – floods and livestock plagues – the pattern with the rest is the same. The events themselves all blur into one by this stage – the run on the banks, the Olympics budget, bloated failed computer projects, loss of private data, the railways, MRSA, education failures, neglect of the forces, patently dishonest party funding, any amount of evidence of the lack of any management, administrative or organisational skills and so on ad infinitum.

The reaction from Brown is the same every time

  • blame someone else
  • lash out in blind fury
  • refer to his alleged economic record

Most of us would give more credit for the latter to worldwide economic growth, of which Brown was the beneficiary in his years at the Treasury. Even those who buy the Brown version – that the success was his – must see its credit as devalued as Brown uses it as his counter-attack to every charge laid against him and his party.

Having claimed this success as his own in the good years, what will he do as things turn bad? Blame Alastair Darling – that would be like kicking your poodle because the roof fell in on your head. I guess we will suddenly find that world events have a part to play in economic matters after all when the trends turn downward.

Some time ago, Matthew Parris criticised Brown’s use of the word “investment” as a synonym for “spending”. Every further billion which gurgled down the plug-hole was an “investment”. Parris wondered what would happen to the terminology when the inevitable cuts came.

The c-word is to New Labour what the n-word is to the equalities industry. What word will they come up with when their “investment” goes into reverse?

Even if Brown can claim any credit for the economic growth of the past decade, it already sounds hollow as his universal answer to every criticism. Even if he cannot be blamed for every succeeding disaster, we are already, so early in his prime ministership, deciding what sort of brownout it is – total malfunction or outright failure.

It is clearly the former on any basis. It can’t take much more to make it an outright failure.

As a follow-up letter  puts it, if the Government is experiencing a brownout, it is an amazing coincidence that the problem could also be the solution.



About Chris Dale

I have been an English solicitor since 1980. I run the e-Disclosure Information Project which collects and comments on information about electronic disclosure / eDiscovery and related subjects in the UK, the US, AsiaPac and elsewhere
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