A few choice nuggets rather than a full fisking. For instance:
While many countries are experiencing an economic slowdown, Alan Greenspan, the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, has warned that the UK economy is “more exposed” than the US economy to financial instability (The Daily Telegraph, 18 September 2007).
It’s awfully good of them to put the reference in. It lets you look up what Greenspan actually said:
Britain is more exposed than we are in that regard - in the sense that you have a good deal more adjustable-rate mortgages. Britain has done awfully well. If you look back, it’s been a big surprise. Nonetheless, it’s probably marginally more subject to credit problems than we are.
Which casts things in a rather different light. Also, when asked whether the UK had as serious a prospect of recession as the US, he said:
No, because one of the things that Gordon Brown has been pressing for for quite a long time is flexibility. Unlike even the US, Britain accepts foreign corporations coming in, buying up British assets. It may be one of the most competitive economies in the world.
Last June, Gordon Brown announced a new policy of providing “British jobs for British workers”, which he reiterated in his September Labour Conference speech (24 September 2007). But the proposals would be illegal under EU law.
Alas, no. The more intelligent among you may have noticed that “British jobs for British workers” is a verbless soundbite and not a policy. His conference speech remarks were clearly about training and skills rather than restricting the working rights of foreigners. And what he said last June was actually “British workers for… British jobs”. More precisely:
It is time to train British workers for the British jobs that will be available over the coming few years and to make sure that people who are inactive and unemployed are able to get the new jobs on offer in our country.
Pensioner poverty higher than in 1997. The number of pensioners living on below 60 per cent of the median income measured before housing costs… is 100,000 higher than in 1997 (DWP, Households Below Average Income, June 2008).
In reality, the number of pensioners below the poverty line so defined is either unchanged or 100,000 lower depending on whether they mean 1996/97 or 1997/98 when they say “1997” (hat tip). But it’s more seriously misleading than that.
This is the number of pensioners below the poverty line. And there are now six or seven hundred thousand more pensioners than there were back then, which means that the proportion of pensioners below this line is significantly down.
And a fourth:
On the day before Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, he said it was “frankly a good thing” that newspapers were briefed on key announcements before Parliament (The Independent, 27 June 2007).
You know the routine by now. What he said, when asked about policies being trailed in the papers, was:
If you think that's happened in the past, I'm sorry. But I think now we live in times when there is more external consultation on the formation of policy, and it's inevitable that there will be some kind of public discussion about policy issues before anyone stands up and makes a statement to Parliament. Frankly, I think that's a good thing. We can't have a return to a purdah system, where the Government refuses to consult anyone on the development of its policies.
But the Tory dossier covers a lot of ground, generally in scattershot fashion, and it certainly scores some legit hits (although some of those are pretty minor). There are also points that are purely differences of opinion, some that are irrelevant and some where the Tories could face similar criticism.
Then, though, it goes into tawdry attack mode.
There’s the ‘year in quotes’ section, consisting of people saying bad things about Brown (except for the ones from Jack Straw and Alan Johnson, which are saying utterly different things from what the dossier suggests). A fair few of them are anonymous, including that old favourite, “psychological flaws”. Nice. Classy.
Next up is ‘A year in pictures’, which reaches the intellectual heights you’d expect. Among the reasons that Brown has been a bad PM is that he “was pictured with his trouser leg tucked into his sock”. Worse, he hit a tennis ball with a “weird style and facial expression”. He was also “pictured outside Downing Street, with his hair apparently on fire”. Worst of all, on one occasion, Brown “looked as if he’d been targeted by aliens from planet orange”. I’m not making this up.
The following section is ‘A year of gaffes, tragedy and farce’, which is a mixture of unsubstantiated gossip culled second- and third-hand from the press, a couple of verbal slips, taking the piss out of his accent, Madame Tussauds not making a waxwork of him, a daft Hazel Blears idea (which went nowhere), an opinion poll, and one of the lyrics in a song he likes.
Then it gets even better. The ‘Jonah Brown’ section explains that Brown is a jinx: his presence is associated with sporting defeats, bad weather and minor injuries among those around him. Actually, only one of these three claims is made. Can you guess which? Does it even matter?
And that’s that. Oh yes, except that David Cameron describes the document as “robust”. Mmm.
It’s perfectly possible to deliver a firm and reasoned argument that Brown has failed in his first year, being critical of his personal qualities as well as his policies. You’d expect the Tories to be quite good at doing such a job. But this ain’t it. It’s cheap, flimsy and nasty.