Gordon Brown has intervened in the Brexit debate with an impressive and passionate speech made from the ruins of Coventry Cathedral (preserved as a memorial to the bomb damage of the Second World War – ‘Nazi’ bombing, he is careful to say, not ‘German’ bombing).
I love Gordon Brown, and was sorry that his premiership was such a disappointment. He is everything that Tony Blair is not – deeply clever, thoughtful, sincerely passionate on behalf of the dispossessed and disadvantaged, uninterested in material gain, and honest.
He was right about that ‘bigoted woman’, but his opinions, insecurities and passions too often got the better of him in situations where calm control would have been more effective, and his childish rivalry with Tony Blair damaged the last Labour Government. If it’s true that he flung his mobile phone at the wall whenever he was angry, then he was perhaps temperamentally unfit for the highest office.
He lacked the slick, sly PR skills of his predecessor, lacked the tact and political pragmatism that politics require and which win elections, and in the end he failed as Prime Minister, though he played a crucial role superbly during the financial crisis of 2008-2009. He might perhaps have made an excellent benign dictator. He could have got on with the job without having to pander to public opinion.
Since he lost the General Election in 2010 Gordon Brown has kept a low profile. But it might have been he who swung the vote towards Remain when Scotland was considering secession. In his late intervention he made a powerful, simple, persuasive case, as he does now in this EU Remain video:
What’s impressive is that he makes the POSITIVE arguments that the campaign has so far lacked. An audience laughed the other day when Cameron made the ‘World War Three’ claims, but the point about peace in Europe is an important one, and whereas Cameron made it ineptly, here in this video Gordon Brown makes it persuasively and movingly.
He doesn’t mention the economic case at all, as if it’s only a sideshow, despite the fact that as a former Chancellor you might expect that this would be his area of expertise, and he doesn’t once mention immigration.
Rather, he talks up Britain’s moral place in Europe – as the country that fought the Second World War to establish the kind of peace we now enjoy, as the country that established the human rights to which all members of the EU must subscribe, as the country that argued most strongly for the inclusion of the formerly oppressive states of Eastern Europe.
His outlook is international, not narrowly insular. Though he doesn’t use the term ‘European Values’ he unashamedly talks up the idea of a ‘community’ where we are interested in the rights of other peoples even if they live in faraway places. He shames us into accepting that it’s not only about benefits but about responsibilities – Britain, he says, will soon be the largest economy in Europe, and we have a duty to lead not to leave.
He is right.