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Nick Booth: Brown and Balls are two unlikely architects of Brexit


If you want proof that the BBC is biased, consider its reporting of Gordon Brown’s strategy on Europe.

Imagine if our moodiest ever Prime Minister had been the architect of Brexit. Would the BBC have run a smear campaign against him? Would ‘neutral’ BBC anchors have subtly planted the idea of his supposed xenophobia into every debate, with the words, “Of course, nobody is saying that Gordon Brown is a racist.”

Arguably Gordon is the Brexfather. It was he who insisted that we would never join the euro until his Five Economic Test Criteria had been met. And they never were, so he bravely defied Tony Blair and kept us out of the currency.

Was this by design or by accident? Who knows? Either way this was a masterstroke. Gordon Brown is the man who saved us from being shackled to ship that’s taking in water and listing to awful extremes.

To be fair, official Vote Leave campaign head Matthew Elliott thinks my theory is nonsense. “Most commentators see Gordon Brown’s opposition as being rooted in his rivalry with Tony Blair. Had Blair opposed Euro membership, Brown would probably have supported it. So I don’t consider Brown to be a closet Brexiteer,” says Elliott, founder of The Taxpayers’ Alliance.

It was Ed Balls (Brown’s special adviser) who was against euro membership for economic reasons, says Elliott.

Still, in the spirit of modern journalism, I’m going to ignore the experts and plough on ahead, trusting my own gut feelings.

Brown and Balls, whether by strategy or as idiot savants, were the first Brexiteers.

Even Elliot grudgingly recognises their contribution. “Britain’s decision not to join the euro will make Brexit easier,” says Elliott.

Was Balls ever pilloried by the BBC for arguing against euro harmonisation? The most contentious conversation he ever had with Stephanie Flanders, the former BBC economics guru (and his ex-flatmate) went something like this: Flanders: You put the phone down first. Balls: Giggle, no, you put the phone down first. Flanders: [sighs]: Oh, Ed. I could listen to you – without interrupting – all day.

Meanwhile, the BBC consistently hailed Gordon Brown as the greatest chancellor ever. One Radio Four programme began like this: “It’s been universally accepted that Gordon Brown’s economic captaincy has been an overwhelming success. But has he been too successful?”

(Yes, that’s a genuine intro. Trust me, no amount of ECT can remove the memory. It was the most sycophantic moment in the history of news coverage. I will always remember where I was when I heard that – wailing and gnashing my teeth on the floor of our kitchen – because that was the day that journalism died. Still, Polly Toynbee probably wrote a column complaining of Tory bias.)

Imagine the stick that the BBC would have given, say, David Davis, if he’d refused to join the euro. They would have been apoplectic. An aggrievance of ‘experts’, led by Owen Jones, would have been instantly speed dialled and rushed into the studios for their economic testimony. Luminaries such as Wilf Self, Laurie Penny, Mehdi Hasan, Paul Mason, Russell Brand and Johan Hari would be on permanent call for soundbite, ranting and psychological projection duties.

Protests outside Parliament would be encouraged. Teams of activists would be bussed into every session of BBC Question Time and every writers meeting for ‘satirical comedy’ shows on Radio 4. Single currency disaster story lines would feature in every BBC drama from The Archers to The Tellytubbies. People watching Casualty on Saturday night would be rooting for the benighted female patient, who was obviously being beaten by her awful bullying white male husband, a ‘businessman’ (boo!) who didn’t like foreigners and only wanted to use English money.

It’s odd how the BBC treats people differently on the basis of their politics, their religion and the colour of their skin. I would have thought that would be against its charter.

Still, let’s not worry about that too much. What can you do? So let’s celebrate the excellent work that Gordon Brown was allowed to carry out without interruption from the condescentii. He somehow slipped under the radar of the BBC News Camp Guards and, in doing so, saved us from a fate worse than the breath of Jean-Claude Juncker. Arguably, it was Brown and Balls who saved the Union too.

“One of the questions which the SNP failed to answer at the last Scottish Independence referendum was What will you do for a currency?,” says Elliott, “not having to face this question in the EU referendum made leaving less of a risk for voters.”

So well done Gordon Brown and take a bow Ed Balls. They got one thing neo-endogenously right.

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Nick Booth
Nick Booth
Nick Booth is a freelance writer.

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