Brown’s anger about that was as nothing compared with his reaction on Wednesday evening, when he learnt of the coverage in theTimes.
Danny Finkelstein, the paper’s comment editor, a former speech-writer
to John Major and a keen student of American politics, had been struck
by the familiarity of many phrases in Brown’s speech. Finkelstein
confirmed his suspicions by Googling any line that sounded like a
speech-writer’s phrase. Brown said: “Sometimes people say I am too
serious.” That was awfully similar to a sentence used by Al Gore in
2000 when he accepted the Democratic nomination: “I know that sometimes
people say I’m too serious.” Finkelstein identified several examples of
phrases recycled from speeches by Gore and Bill Clinton, both former
clients of Bob Shrum, adviser and speech-writer for Brown. When
Finkelstein posted it on his blog that afternoon, the deputy editor of
theTimes, Ben Preston, thought it would make “a great splash” for the next morning’s paper.
When Brown learnt that theTimes
planned to lead its front page with how he had rehashed American
phrases, he was “incandescent”, says a member of his inner circle. From
his suite at the Highcliff, he rang complaining to Preston and Robert
Thomson, the editor of theTimes. “It’s a Tory plot,” he
raged, trying to bludgeon them into pulling the story. “This won’t be
forgotten.” He was maddest of all with his own team. Brown went berserk
with Bob Shrum, whose long friendship did not protect the American from
a ferocious blast of Brown’s temper. “How could you do this to me,
Bob?” Brown screamed at a shaking Shrum. “How could you fucking do this
to me?” Then the Prime Minister started yelling at the other aides
present: “Just get out! Just get out of the fucking room!” Sue Nye
became so alarmed that she felt compelled to come into the room to
protect the unfortunate Shrum.
Obviously, Gordon is unaware that getting Shrummy involved in a national campaign is a recipe for disaster. I suspect Shrummy’s defense was self-plagiarism: he wrote many of Gore’s windy and dull speeches. Plus, many of us have made the Gore as Brown and Clinton as Blair analogy because it’s so fitting.
The above excerpt comes from a new book by the Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley who describes the implosion of the Labour Government’s 2nd and 3rd terms in office. There’s as much court intrigue at Downing Street as in the glory days of the Medicis and Borgias. Prime Minister Brown was already in deep shit and sinking fast and the stories in this book could even lead to the umpteenth attempt to remove him as PM and leader of the Labour Party before the upcoming national election.
Stay tuned. It’s going to be a helluva interesting few weeks in British politics.