In an extended piece in the Mail today, in advance of his film for 'Dispatches' on C4 on Monday night, Peter Oborne gives us a penetrating appraisal of the mind and character of Gordon Brown. An insight into Brown's character has been hovering at the edge of my mind for days; he reminded me powerfully of a character from history, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. I woke this morning with the name 'Tiberius' in my mind and by 6am was re-reading Marañón on Tiberius.
Thirteen years ago Brown was told he was not good enough to be Labour's choice for Prime Minister. Still second best, he will take the reins for a final year or two of Labour's power without the endorsement of the electorate, a hungry greedy child elbowing his way onto the table and resentful of all the forces that have kept him from the cake. And it is this deep resentment that links the characters of Brown and Tiberius.
Oborne describes how Brown has not spoken to Mandelson for thirteen years, barely spoke to Robin Cook for twenty years over an obscure dispute over a youthful pamphlet, how he has always avoided direct confrontation but used others to crush dissent. Oborne's description of his contempt for and utter indifference to others to me resembles the character of a psychopath who can cry over the death of a kitten but is unmoved by human slaughter.
Marañón writes "Resentful men [are] endowed with a talent which falls short of realising that, if they fail to reach a higher category than they have attained, this is not the fault of other people's hostility, as they suppose, but the fault of their own failings". He catalogues the attraction for the more powerful man of the resentful man, who hovers around the court of the mighty, at once attracted and repelled, caught in a bond of bitterness that can burst forth in revenge; "...that strength conferred by political power, his resentment, hitherto disguised as resignation, bursts forth in revenge ... resentful men, when chance places them in a position of power, are so much to be feared".
"In the case of every resentful man we must be on the outlook for some frustration or abnormality in his sexual instinct" he continues, "they are husbands unfortunate in their marriages, they are people affected by abnormal or repressed tendencies." Humour, too, is lacking says Marañón, and the resentful man often bears a physical characteristic, a defect, that marks them as a target for the humour of others.
Oborne declares that Brown must change his character if he is to succeed. I fear the bitter gall of resentment is too deep in Brown's soul for this. This runners-up prize, this brief interval in office, is too little to reform Brown's inner sense of injustice. He's second-best and the world knows it.
Since the resentful man is always an unsuccessful man - unsuccessful in relation to his ambition - it would seem at first sight as though success ought to cure him. Success may, if it comes, calm the resentful man; but it never cures him. On the contrary, it very often happens that success, far from curing him, makes him worse. This is because he regards success as a solemn consecration of the fact that his resentment was justifiable, and this justification intensifies his long-standing bitterness.If I were Blair I'd be very, very afraid.