June 27, 2007


Brown ready to take reins in Britain: The brainy and somber incoming prime minister waited 13 years to lead (Kim Murphy, June 27, 2007, LA Times)

He shows up for work in famously drab ties with his nails bitten to the quick. He hates networking, and didn't marry until he was 49. He's the glowering figure often seen harrumphing on the bench behind his preternaturally poised boss, Prime Minister Tony Blair, in the House of Commons.

You might say he's the anti-Blair, in more ways than one. [...]

Brown's reluctance to delegate is legendary and stems, many say, from his characteristic impatience.

"When you get to be prime minister, you can't do everything. Therefore, you've got to trust and empower your colleagues more," a former treasury official said. "But he thinks he's smarter than they are, and he works harder than they do."

Brown has always been intellectually intimidating. "He's blind in one eye, and he reads everything. It's really terrifying what he reads. Scary," said Irwin Stelzer, a conservative at the Washington-based Hudson Institute who has known Brown for years. The two often find themselves on opposite sides of a debate.

Brown, who began as a brash and bookish young Scottish socialist, stuck closer to Labor's traditional leftist ideals than Blair and never became the smooth politician that Blair is. He eschews white tie at his annual address to the captains of British industry at the Lord Mayor's ceremonial house, a habit a Times of London columnist recently called "simply bloody rude."

The floor of the study of his weekend home in Scotland is likely to be heaped chaotically with books; at European Council meetings, where networking is everything, Brown often arrives at the last minute, reorders the agenda so the items he's interested in happen first, and catches an early plane home.

His conversation starters with friends are simple: "What are you reading?" is usually the first. Then, "Have you heard any good jokes?"

But his patience ends, many say, when the IQ at the other end of the conversation is found wanting. This is sometimes defined, those who don't get along with him believe, by whether his interlocutor sees the wisdom of his views.

Ruth Lea, an economist and 16-year treasury employee who now directs the London-based Center for Policy Studies, said she found Brown "amazingly intolerant" when she expressed disagreement with him over his program of tax credits for working families.

"He blew up. He just lost his temper with me. And then tried to bludgeon me by loudly justifying his decision," Lea said.

The beginning of wisdom as a leader is to recognize that most of the jobs are neither particularly important nor difficult. The notion that each is so vital that only you can do it and you should always leads to disaster.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 27, 2007 8:56 AM

Tennis court scheduling.

Every day we're getting closer to the 70s.

Posted by: Sandy P at June 27, 2007 10:22 AM

Picture this: Brown and Cheney networking.

Posted by: Genecis at June 27, 2007 11:08 AM

The internet didn't exist during Jimmy's reign, so his ridiculosity wasn't documented. PM Brown will not be so lucky.

Posted by: erp at June 27, 2007 12:24 PM

Here in the US, a President can go months without hearing a substantive question. Over there, it's probably less than a week. Blair was always animated and earnest during the his House times. Brown sounds like he wants to lecture them.

Can you imagine Jimmy trying to argue directly with anyone in 1979? He'd have lasted about 3 minutes.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 27, 2007 5:16 PM

Question Time is just a glorified press conference.

Posted by: oj at June 27, 2007 6:54 PM
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