Dylan Jones: If you ask me

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The Independent Online

If you ask me, Gordon Brown's former apologists should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. No, I take that back: they should take voluntary redundancy from the apologist business, banish themselves to the hills and never darken the doors of the metropolitan commentariat ever again.

Just over a year ago, as Brown took office, many of my friends began taking great delight in taunting me with Brown's inescapable genius, trying to convince me that no matter what happened with the Labour Party, no matter what happened with the Tories, no matter what happened with anyone anywhere in the world in fact – no matter what happened with the Taliban or the Teletubbies – Brown was going to be one of the greatest Prime Ministers in British political history.

So, flunkies, what did you know that I didn't? Turns out you knew Jack.

A few years ago Duncan Brack and Iain Dale edited a "collection of political counterfactuals" called Prime Minister Portillo ... and Other Things That Never Happened, and Chapter 13 was entitled "What if Jim Callaghan had gone to the country in October 1978?" This piece – by Paul Richards – shows Callaghan avoiding the Winter of Discontent, Thatcher's ascendancy and fermenting union unrest by winning a working majority at the 1978 election.

Oh that Gordon Brown had done the same thing last year. His reluctance to call that election didn't just ruin his reputation, it also ruined the careers of so many who should have been alerted to his unnerving pathological tendencies, people who chose to be blind to his political and professional limitations.

We've all backed the wrong horse at least once in our lives. But in the last nine months I've never seen so many people try to distance themselves from the Big Clunking Fist: friends, colleagues, associates, Cabinet ministers, etc.

But it won't wash: you were there, you said what you said, and you got it wrong. Perhaps they all should find a copy of Paul Richards' article, and read the final paragraph – "It would perhaps make an interesting counterfactual to consider what might have happened if Callaghan had called it wrong in August 1978 and delayed the election through the winter. Labour might have lost, and Britain might even have had its first woman Prime Minister."

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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