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US believed Brown had 'abysmal track record': Leaked cables

world Updated: Dec 03, 2010 23:43 IST

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Former British prime minister Gordon Brown was written off by the US embassy in London for having an "abysmal track record" that led him from "political disaster to disaster," according to classified cables released by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks.

According to extracts of the embassy cables published by The Guardian on Friday, the US mission in London wrote off Brown within a year of his taking over as the prime minister from Tony Blair.

Rober Tuttle, the then US ambassador, blamed Brown for presiding over a "post-Blair rudderlessness" which prompted senior Labour figures to complain of their despair to the embassy.

The diplomatic cables confirm that US President Barack Obama's allies were irritated by Brown's intense manner: he interrupted a Thanksgiving call to the current President's ambassador to lobby for a Tobin tax on financial transactions in the face of US opposition, the report said.

"Prime minister Brown continues to press hard ... despite being fully aware of US opposition to the tax," former ambassador Louis Susman wrote in December last year.

The US embassy sent many cables in July 2008 after Labour's "terrible" by-election defeat to the Scottish National party in Glasgow East.

Tuttle wrote in a cable on July 31, 2008, a week after the by-election: "As Gordon Brown lurches from political disaster to disaster, Westminster is abuzz with speculation about whether he will be replaced as prime minister and Labour party leader, and, if so, by whom ... A terrible by-election defeat ... has left the Labour party reeling and fuelled fears among MPs that Brown's leadership of the party, and his premiership, may now be beyond repair."

The ambassador wrote pen portraits of several Labour figures who might succeed Brown. They included David Miliband but not his brother Ed, who is now party leader.

Tuttle concluded: "We don't see a clear tipping point on the horizon – but given Brown's abysmal track record over the last year, that day could come when Labour MPs return from vacations in late August/early September."

Nick Brown, one of the former prime minister's key aides, briefed the US embassy on by-election defeat and admitted that it had been a "terrible" blow, but insisted his namesake would see off his Labour opponents.

"Nick Brown said the prime minister and his allies would be able 'to slap down'" any threat, political counsellor Rick Mills wrote.

The embassy's view of Brown improved in the autumn of 2008 when he led the way in recapitalising banks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

In a cable on October 15, 2008, the acting minister counsellor Kathleen Doherty wrote: "After a year of plummeting poll numbers and questions about his ability to lead, Gordon Brown is suddenly riding high."

Within months, however, the embassy described Labour as a "sinking ship". In a cable on April 24, 2009, the political counsellor Greg Berry said Labour was in such a poor state that none of Brown's possible challengers would want to strike.

"We assess it unlikely that any Labour politician with his or her eye on the future would want to take on the sinking ship that is the current Labour party at this time of crisis," Berry wrote. "It is more likely that Labour will go down in the next election – and then will begin the process of rebuilding."

Later, on May 6, 2009, Berry reported "A wounded, but still standing, Gordon Brown remains at the helm of his party and is likely to do so until the voters speak in the next election, increasingly likely now to be postponed until the latest date possible next spring ... The man who has nursed his dream – and grievance – of being prime minister since 1994 is not going to walk out of Downing Street now."