One of the jobs of a journalist is to challenge orthodoxies, and Bill Keegan fits neatly into this role. He argued against independence for the Bank of England when doing so was deeply unfashionable, critiqued Gordon Brown’s chancellorship when even the Tory papers were seduced, and is now arguing for a positive reappraisal of Brown’s stewardship of the economy.
In “Saving the World”? Gordon Brown Reconsidered, Keegan argues that Brown deserves significant credit as being “the right man in the right place at the right time to give an impressive display of world leadership in the face of the economic crisis.”
The case is well-argued, with plenty of data and good details. Keegan is famously well-connected, and a wonderful footnote explains that “I have drawn on many background conversations with politicians, civil servants and bankers… Trust me!”
However, even Keegan does not attempt to call Brown a competent prime minister, noting that “his obsessive personality, inability to delegate and intrinsic disorganisation were to prove inimical to a harmonious and successful premiership.”
Yes, Brown’s role in the financial crisis does deserve reappraisal, especially given the extreme attacks he’s faced from Conservative-supporting newspapers. However, Brown was never able to properly get on top of the PM’s job, and the public certainly noticed. As a recent YouGov poll has found, a whopping 43 per cent believe that Brown is the most incompetent prime minister since 1979.
Nonetheless, this is an welcome, well-written appraisal of a short, turbulent, and incredibly important period of history. Bravo, Bill.