Tom Richmond: Browned off. No contest for the worst PM ever to hold the office

John Prescott tries to keep the peace between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.
John Prescott tries to keep the peace between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.
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WHO is the worst Prime Minister of all?

According to University of Leeds academics, it is David Cameron after Britain defied his wishes and voted to leave the European Union in the referendum which he called.

And, according to the left-wing Historical Writers Association this week, it is Margaret Thatcher for “neo-liberalism, deindustrialisation, free market ideology, Scottish poll tax, selling council houses and failing to act on early stages of global warming”.

That’s some charge sheet.

But judging by the latest volumes of Alastair Campbell’s diaries, which cover the period from 2003-05 when he had left 10 Downing Street following the fallout over the Iraq war, it has to be Gordon Brown for being such a disruptive force.

Believe it or not, the media downplayed the power struggle between the mutinous Chancellor and Tony Blair, an interminable battle of wills which stopped the Government from operating effectively and competently according to Mr Campbell’s Outside, Inside book.

It was so bad that John Prescott “invited himself” in November 2003 to the Sheffield United versus Burnley match which Mr Campbell was trying to watch with Dick Caborn, the then Sports Minister.

“He said it was all about GB wanting to take over,” recorded Mr Campbell. “He said TB was leader and GB had to accept that. If he could, they could carry on and work together. But if they couldn’t, it would be curtains. JP said he knew my view of GB... He said ‘Is this for the diary?’”

And so it carried on – October 3, 2004, being a case in point. “TB had seen GB on Wednesday,” noted the diarist. “You’d have loved it, he said. It was a collector’s item. GB – you wanted to see me.

“TB – yes. GB – Here I am. TB – I wanted to say that we give it one last go to work together. GB – What is your proposal? TB – My proposal is that we work together, and you co-operate with me, and then one day I help you to take over.

“GB – That is not a proposal. TB – Yes it is. GB – No it’s not. TB – Are you saying that unless I give you a date for my departure, you won’t work with me? GB – I need a proposal so I know what the future holds.”

And so it went on, day after day. No wonder the country went from boom to bust. It beggars belief that Gordon Brown, a man lacking in personal skills in addition to his economic shortcomings, was actually given the keys to 10 Downing Street – has there ever been a leader more unsuited to high office? – and that Tony Blair was too weak to sack him.

If he had, and if Labour had had a meaningful leadership contest when Mr Blair stepped down, would the party be in the mess that it is today?

ONE person who opposed London bidding for, and then staging, the 2012 Olympics was the self-same Gordon Brown. This emerged at a soirée in September 2004 when Tessa Jowell, the then Culture Secretary, had dinner with Alastair Campbell and Seb Coe.

According to Mr Campbell’s diary note: “Tessa said that one day the full story would be told about all GB’s efforts to block and resist.” Come on, do tell...

ANOTHER surprising nugget from the Campbell diaries was the apparent frequency of his speaking engagements with Yorkshire Forward, the profligate regional development agency then run by Tom Riordan who is now Leeds Council’s chief executive. Good value for money?

I NOTE that the Department for Transport moved quickly to derail plans to recruit four recent graduates, each on up to £30,000, to “write the story of HS2 from inception to the present day”.

Which official agreed to this hare-brained scheme to write the 21st century equivalent of Thomas the Tank Engine in the first place? We’re talking £120,000 here. Long-suffering commuters have a right to know.

HOW can the Government expect community pharmacies to be a 
patient’s first port of call for the 
NHS, and for the diagnosis of minor ailments, when thousands of branches face closure because of Department of Health cuts?

TALKING of imponderables, can the money-grabbing Scottish Nationalists explain why they want to leave the United Kingdom in the cause of independence, but join the European Union where they will be at the mercy of Brussels?

The only way to counter Nicola Sturgeon’s opportunism is for Theresa May to include the Barnett Formula, which gives the Scots more public money than hard-pressed regions like Yorkshire, in her Brexit renegotiations.

PROBLEMS with the labelling of British dairy produce have again been highlighted in Parliament, this time by Environment Select Committee chairman Neil Parish.

I can’t understand why Defra – headed by the Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom – is dithering. Let’s make sure the British flag is on milk, cheese and butter produced here now – and not wait to leave the EU.

THE poignancy was palpable as Aberfan fell silent yesterday to remember the 116 children and 28 adult skilled when an avalanche of coal waste submerged a village school in one of the UK’s worst ever peacetime disasters, one which haunts mining communities to this day. It is the most tragic of reminders of what can happen when short cuts are taken with ‘health and safety’, a life and death concept which, sadly, is treated with disdain and glibness by too many cavalier people and organisations today. Let’s hope they, too, paused 
and reflected on a tragedy like no other.

BRITISH Gas is the latest to discriminate against the elderly – or those without internet access. It has sent out reminders to households to book their annual boiler service – and for customers to call a designated number.

Yet the answerphone on the number in question says British Gas can only accept bookings online. And it has the temerity to call itself a public service...

GOOD to see Yorkshire’s Olympic and Parlaympic heroes receive such a warm welcome in the Manchester rain on Monday. They’re made of sterner stuff than world-record £90m footballer Paul Pogba who had to wear gloves for that evening’s match between Manchester United and Liverpool. Perhaps a day’s training with the Brownlee brothers would sort him out?

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk