Richard North, 11/09/2004  

There is a good leader in The Daily Telegraph today, bearing the title, "Brown only talks like a Euro-sceptic".

The piece opens with the same, sound advice that has been canvassed in this Blog, namely "When dealing with a politician, it is generally advisable to judge him by what he does, not by what he says". We cannot emphasise enough what good advice that it.

Yet, says the Telegraph, Gordon Brown has brilliantly persuaded the country to judge him not even on the basis of what he says, but by the spin given to his words in off-the-record briefings.
Its thesis is that most people who follow politics take it for granted that the Chancellor is something of a Euro-sceptic.

He is credited with having prevented Tony Blair from trying to join the euro (Eat your heart out, the "no" campaign). He was reported, during the negotiation of the EU constitution, to be prepared to scupper the whole deal rather than accept further economic harmonisation. Now he complains of the EU's slow growth, and attacks plans for an increase in the Brussels budget.
Yet, all the while, he and his Cabinet colleagues have been working to, as it were, continentalise the British economy.

In order to get away with this "smoke and mirror" image Brown has pulled off something extraordinary, persuading Labour backbenchers that he is more socialist than the Prime Minister, while appealing to a chunk of Middle England - in particular the Daily Mail - as anti-Brussels. (This is, interestingly, a recent development: before 1997, Mr Brown was portrayed as more Europhile than Mr Blair.)

What is so clever, concludes the piece, is that neither side is able to point to a single on-the-record quotation to justify its faith in the man: the whole thing has been achieved through hints. To understand what Mr Brown is up to, one needs to think like a Westminster lobby correspondent. This is not about ideology, but power.

The full piece is well worth the read.

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