It is hard to believe that Brown had the gall in his anti-Corbyn diatribe to declare that “the best way of realising our high ideals is to show that we have an alternative in government that is…neither a pale imitation of what the Tories offer nor is the route to being a party of permanent protest, rather than a party of government”. The prime reason that Labour lost 5 million votes between 1997 and 2010 was, apart from Iraq, the fact that a very large minority of Labour voters did think precisely that – that under the regimes of Blair and Brown Labour was indeed ‘a pale imitation of what the Tories offer’. It’s also why UKIP gained 4 million votes at the election three months ago because a huge chunk of the electorate had indeed come to the conclusion that ‘they’re all the same’.
Brown was the overseer of deregulated finance, free-wheeling market finance, the introduction of privatisation and outsourcing into health and education, and keeping the unions on a short leash to encourage foreign investment into Britain. Those were all Tory policies inaugurated by Thatcher which Brown didn’t reverse in any significant way, but actually extended in various ways, particularly in offering huge concessions to the City of London when he hosed down the banks and hedge funds with laudatory hyperbole in his Mansion House speeches to the assembled potentates of finance. And to give equal encouragement to Big Business, Brown enormously extended the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which offered government-guaranteed profits to business for the next 25-40 years at taxpayers’ expense. This wasn’t a pale imitation of the Tories; it was the epitome of Tory ideology.
And as to Brown lecturing us on winning elections, he was the most unpopular prime minister since the second world war and lost the 2010 election with the lowest Labour vote since 1918. He was the architect of ‘regulation lite’ (i.e. virtually no regulation) for the banks and finance sector which undoubtedly contributed to the recklessness and arrogance of the banks in all but triggering a global recession. To that extent Brown’s support for unregulated free-market capitalism was a significant contributory factor in bringing about the biggest financial crash for nearly a century, from which the Labour party and the centre-left parties of Europe have still not recovered.
It is the arrogance of Brown and Blair in assuming that they alone, the Labour establishment, have the unique skills to win elections that actually they have proved rather adept at losing, which is so galling. Above all they, alongside the Tories, have insisted on endless austerity as the right way to achieve deficit reduction which is not only incredibly unpopular, but also patently failing to achieve its ostensible goal. Jeremy Corbyn is far more aligned with what the people of Britain clearly want, while the Blair-Brownites are in a state of denial. Brown should look to his own record: when in a glasshouse, don’t throw stones.