Labour’s sacked General Secretary: “Number 10 was a shambles after Gordon took over”

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    10th January, 2010

    As if Gordon Brown hasn’t had enough of a kicking this week, someone else has put the boot in. Saying that Number 10 was a shambles after Brown took over, and that ministers didn’t like Brown, former General Secretary of the Labour Party Peter Watt says he was hung out to dry by the party over the ‘donation by proxy’. He also says that over a million was spent on the election that never was.

    Peter Watt, sacked as General Secretary of the Labour party, in the party's fund-raising scandal - after Brown took over the "leadership".

    The Mail on Sunday is serialising a book by Peter Watt. You may remember him. He was the man who lost his job over the donor-by-proxy business. The sections I have used below deal mainly with the on-off general election. There is more … much more.

    Douglas Alexander: “Peter, we’ve spent 10 years working with Gordon and we don’t like him. The more the public get to know, the less they will like him too”

    By Peter Watt

    Peter Watt was at the head of the Labour Party machine during one of the most tumultuous periods in recent political history – the transfer of power from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown.

    As General Secretary of the party between 2005 and 2007, he was its most senior member and at the heart of Government. He was a key player in the notorious ‘Election that never was’, the poll Brown ‘bottled’ at the 11th hour.

    Here he gives an extraordinary no-holds-barred account of the fiasco from which Brown’s reputation has never recovered – the first such account from a party insider.

    It details the indecision, chaos and seething resentment at the heart of Brown’s administration, and reveals how even the Prime Minister’s closest aides disliked him…


    After years of TB-GB warfare, Gordon’s inner circle had pretty much convinced themselves that Tony was the devil incarnate, responsible for all the party’s problems, and seemed to think that as soon as the Chancellor took over, everything would be fine.

    It was an attitude that almost certainly emanated from Gordon himself, who seemed convinced all the party’s financial ills were Tony’s fault.

    ‘It will all be fine once I take over – millions of pounds will come in,’ Gordon would say.

    He believed Tony had given too much free rein to Michael Levy and blamed them both for the smell of corruption now surrounding our fundraising operation.

    I always felt like rolling my eyes when he said this because Gordon was part of the problem.


    ‘A General Election in October makes sense,’ I said. ‘It will cost us £8million and we will have an “immediate ask” to donors which will be quite appealing.’

    I had one other important message for Gordon. ‘You must be clear about your decision. What you can’t do is march us up to the top of the hill, then march us down again.’

    As August rolled into September, Gordon continued to mull it over. Douglas and I talked regularly.

    He would say that the Prime Minister hadn’t made up his mind but that we needed to continue to do the groundwork.

    Discreetly we began talking to suppliers and revving up our Election software. We mapped out how Gordon would tour the country. We began talking to banks.

    Meanwhile some of Gordon’s closest aides were pressing him to go for it. Douglas spelled out their rationale.

    ‘The truth is, Peter, we have spent ten years working with this guy, and we don’t actually like him.

    ‘We have always thought that the longer the British public had to get to know him, the less they would like him as well,’ – or words very similar to that. Spencer [Livermore, Brown’s director of political strategy] was in the room at the time and didn’t demur.

    Though Douglas said it with a smile on his face, the sentiment was repeated many times in discussions among senior Labour figures at the time, including during briefings with Saatchi and Saatchi, the advertising agency we had appointed for the Election.

    But there was one area of concern: the manifesto, which was Ed Miliband’s responsibility.

    Douglas arrived at HQ very agitated about it. ‘I can’t believe Ed Miliband,’ he complained.

    ‘You’d imagine that after ten years of waiting for this, and ten years complaining about Tony, we would have some idea of what we are going to do but we don’t seem to have any policies. For God’s sake, Harriet’s helping write the manifesto!’

    It was the first serious indication of a recurrent theme of Gordon’s premiership – everyone around him thought there was some big plan  sitting in a bottom drawer somewhere, just ready to be pulled out when the moment came. In fact, there was nothing.


    No 10’s monosyllabic sulking

    “Like many of my colleagues, I had had deep misgivings about Gordon becoming Prime Minister.

    He lacked leadership skills and seemed to struggle to relate to other people. Often he was downright rude.”

    Go to The Mail to read the rest. This is just the start!

    Oh, the joys!

    A few more like this in the next few weeks and we’ll have another revolt.


    UPDATE to ‘coup’ fallout: Brown forced to concede “pep talk” to Mandelson and “cabinet dissidents” Alexander and Harman at Monday meeting of Parliamentary Labour Party.

    Excerpt: “… one official said: ‘If Gordon had really thrashed the rebels, he wouldn’t be sharing the platform with anyone. He needs protection.’

    As Lord Mandelson reasserted his place as Mr Brown’s most powerful Cabinet adviser, Mr Darling indicated he has forced Mr Brown to drop his claim that Labour will not cut spending.”

    John Rentoul’s quote for the day – It seems that smiling, mocking Douglas Alexander DOESN’T actually like Gordon.

    Independent, Jane Merrick: Vote Labour, the party of lemmings.

    David Miliband & Alan Johnson. They who would be kings?

    Nice picture caption contest, from Miranda Richardson at Sky.

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    One Response to “Labour’s sacked General Secretary: “Number 10 was a shambles after Gordon took over””

    1. Another act of Macdeath « Julie's think tank Says:

      […] Peter Watt’s revenge […]

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