LETTER from THE EDITOR

Share
Never underestimate a Presbyterian reformer. Gordon Brown has already made the setting of interest-rate policy more open than in any other Western country, and, as we reported yesterday, he's hostile to the traditional Budget culture. He wants a more open and less frantic Budget process - less of a secretive huddle of special interest groups trying to cut up the national cake, and more of a national discussion about investment and macro-economics; in other words, how to get a bigger slice of the global cake.

Some will dismiss this as the typical posturing of a newcomer. Treasury friends tell me it's all nonsense, and that Budget culture will overtake Broon, not the other way about. I doubt it. It may not be the case that clothes maketh the man, but they revealeth him - witness, in this case, Brown's famously dour collection of blue suits, and his curt refusal to wear silly clothing at City speeches. He is his own man, a son of the manse, not the Mansion House.

In this, he's very like the late John Smith. I interviewed Smith while he was contesting the Labour leadership, and he gave me a table-hammering exposition of the case for radical reform of the Lords. Taken aback, I expressed some surprise at his passion on the subject. Smith coloured. He didn't generally talk about these things, he said, but I would understand. I was a fellow Scot. It was all those ... those Anglican bishops and Lord Chancellors and so on. I looked blank. Well, he said, they were just sitting around, in wigs and stockings ... "You know, Andrew," Smith finally blurted, "it's all those men dressing up in women's clothing. We're just not having that sort of thing." A true reformer's voice.

As I say, my advice to the Treasury is: don't underestimate the Church of Scotland.

Good advice, too, for Tony Blair. I picked it up at a party in the middle of the week from Norman Tebbit, who believes Blair should think very carefully before threatening his rebel MPs with removal of the whip. "Never corner a rat," is how Lord T put it, before pausing and adding thoughtfully, "unless, of course, you've got a ruddy great stick in your hand and you're going to bash its head in."

I have been in Ireland (getting away from the rain, you see) talking politics. This column being a place where an editor can indulge in private self-doubt, here are a few thoughts on voting reform, which I and this newspaper (un-coincidentally) support. The shift of power on Thursday from Bruton to Ahern was in some respects exemplary - better-humoured and more relaxed than changes of government here. But part of the reason is clearly the time it takes - the horse-trading and haggling.

Here is a shortened list of what three independent TDs demanded of Bertie Ahern in a dozen private meetings as a price for their votes: new industry to replace the closed Pretty Polly factory in Killarney; the upgrading of piers in South Kerry, and the N81 road, too; a new secondary school for Kilcoole; and a new district veterinary office in County Wicklow. Well, you may say, how else are the good people of Kerry to impress their views on national government - and aren't there some backwaters in the British Isles which would benefit from pork-barrel politics here? But it's a rum way of doing business. I feel it fair to share doubts about reform, you see, as well as my certainties.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: A royal serving the nation

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko prior to the start of the European Council Summit in Brussels last month  

David Cameron talks big but is waving a small stick at the Russian bear

Kim Sengupta
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003