It's not often that I find myself in agreement with the Times' Matthew Parris but, he just sums up Gordon Brown perfectly:
There is a prevailing view on the Left that the Wizard of Dunfermline East will take us back to the purposes and the prescriptions of “old” Labour.Which is odd, because on these pages Anatole Kaletsky has seen a rather different wizard: “. . . His determined resistance to European tax harmonisation, and even his personal predilection for holidays in America rather than Europe, suggest a preference for US-style free enterprise rather than the European social market model. Brown appears to be positioned well to the right of Blair.”
In fact the more you read of Mr Brown and the more impressions and predictions you study, the more confused you become about who he really is or what he really plans to do. On one thing, however, almost everyone agrees: we may not know, but he does. Every silence, every dark glance, every frown, convinces onlookers that something big is going on underneath.
Well, I wonder. I’ve been watching this politician for more than a decade. Here are some random observations — impressionistic notes towards an outline of the mysterious Wizard.
I have never heard Mr Brown say anything interesting, original or new about any aspect of modern British politics. There is little hard evidence for the proposition that he is, in any important way, a political thinker.
As Bertie Ahern can aver, this strategy, of appearing as all things to all men, and not discouraging people from projecting their own political views onto you, can be quite successful for a politician. The problem for Brown and what will probably be his undoing is that this strategy is only effective for the sort of "working the room" type politicans with the personal charisma to win over the voters (as opposed to hacks and political junkies) such as Bill Clinton and, well, Bertie Ahern. Brown finds himself in the unusual position of portraying a wonkish persona without all that to be wonkish about.
[Article also notable for a great quip about Brown by Peter Lilley - "He can brighten a room just by leaving it"]