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Unattributed stories - but damning anyway
on 17 June 2013
I have admired Tom Bower for his books on Maxwell and Branson. However, this book seems to me a bit of a hatchet job, not so much in the main facts, but in the occasional snide remark (the fact Brown would occasionally spend £75 on a haircut is juxtaposed with a remark that suggests his choice debars him from an opinion elsewhere. Bower offers what appear to be psychological insights with no evidence. An example of bias is in chapter 9 where he says, " Like all good socialists, he [Brown] believed mankind could be influenced to change its habits". This is a slight that backfires since the same is true of Christians and indeed most moralists. Bower is inconsistent. At one point he ridicules Geoffrey Robinson for his management style and then later says Robinson had good management skills. The closing page of the book is in contrast to the damning evidence of earlier chapters. It praises Brown for his achievements and his part in controlling spending ministries. And yet the bulk of the detailed evidence shows spending increasing unsustainably in a prescient analysis of the 2007 crash.
The book has no bibliography and not that many source notes; most were not prepared to go on the record. However, given the fact the book has been published and there are libel laws, one must assume that in many areas the book is factually correct. And what a set of facts! Waste on a huge scale born out of arrogance and a refusal to take advice. Worse, Brown then refused to allow his officials to attend Parliamentary Select Committees to explain to MPs what had happened. Policy made up. Stories told that were at odds with the known facts and told deliberately to confuse.
The book is easy to read but sometimes infuriating because of Bower's evident bias. And I think some of his facts are just wrong. Tory spending was not 30% of GDP but more like 40% (it grew under Thatcher)so the comparison with Labour's figure is not so great, although it did undoubtedly grow.