Each one of us, whatever the extent of our greatness, must consider, when we hold the highest offices in the land, at what hour and what day our time has passed. Sometimes it is possible to depart on a point of principle; sometimes we must recognise that age, infirmity or incapacity requires us to muster whatever dignity remains to us.
Mr Gordon Brown's political opponents may fervently wish him every success this week in Manchester. I will no longer mock him as the Queen's ghillie. He deserves the respect one accords to a mortally wounded opponent. Instead I give him this advice: he should beware the ploys of the Tories, who have never failed to stoop to the basest, meanest forms of political strategems and may well conspire to keep him in office.
He should also beware the high passion, the false success and the treacherous acclaim of the party assembly. I enjoyed spending a few days with the remnants of the Liberal Party in Dorset last week. It appeared to me at close quarters to be a party ready for government. That was not apparent to the nation at large; and indeed Mr Nick Clegg's rashness in discussions with the press suggests a continuing need for maturity and gravitas.
Mr Brown, on the other hand, claims these self-same qualities of maturity and gravitas, confusing them with the experience which he may rightly lay claim. It is apparent to all but himself - and a somewhat naive writer of children's books, a Miss Rowling - that he is unable to demonstrate the leadership the nation leads at a time of economic and financial crisis. The observer has no need to be Mr JS Mill to see that governments cannot claim to be holding the financiers to account whilst continuing to subsidise and underwrite their adventures.
On waking today I was astonished to hear the Prime Minister announce his solution to the ills of the nation, indeed, it seems, to the ills of the world and certainly, it must have seemed to him, to the troubles of his own party. The state, he proposes, will take care of all children of two. Like a nanny of old, it will take them from their parents and place them in nurseries. No-one shall have to pay for this nanny, no-one that is except the taxpayer in general and he will pay more when he has already paid enough; when he struggles to pay for his home and his transport to work; when he fears for his employment and his future. It was an announcement that was ill-timed and ill-considered; indeed it was an announcement that lays bare the Marxist soul of the new party of labour, the desire to control and organise every aspect of each citizen's life.
Mr Brown stated "I will do better" like a chastised child, one old enough to talk and discuss matters with his teachers. His lieutenants may assure him that he is doing better. He should ignore their false smiles and treacherous assurances, gather up his kilt with dignity and head for the Highlands.
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