Labour PPC attacks Brown as “worst prime minister we’ve had”

Wouldn’t it have hurt more if he’d just said “worse than Thatcher”?

Brown worst PM

After his astonishing speech to Citizens UK, Gordon Brown might have hoped to attract at least grudging admiration from some of his Labour foes. If so, he didn't factor in one Manish Sood, the party's candidate in North-West Norfolk.

In a last-minute bid for the award for political hyperbole, Sood has described Brown as the "worst prime minister we have had".

He told the Lynn News:

Immigration has gone up which is creating friction within communities. The country is getting bigger and messier. The role of ministers has gone bureaucratic and the action of ministers has gone downhill -- it is corrupt. The loss of social values is the basic problem and this is not what the Labour Party is about.

I believe Gordon Brown has been the worst prime minister we have had in this country. It is a disgrace and he owes an apology to the people and the Queen.

It's probably best not to devote too much time to what Alastair Campbell accurately described on his blog as the "bizarre ramblings of a candidate in an unwinnable seat".

But I'm still perplexed by Sood's insult of choice. Describing Brown as the "worst prime minister" invites us to compare and contrast Brown's record with that of Anthony Eden and that of Neville Chamberlain. Wouldn't it have been more cutting and incendiary just to say "worse than Thatcher"?

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.