Creative Accounting At 10 Downing Street?

Two days ago, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown flew to Basra to announce the withdrawal of 1,000 troops in time for Christmas. Critics claimed at the time that Brown had played up the announcement to bolster Labour for snap elections. Now, however, critics have a more substantial complaint — that Brown far overstated the drawdown by counting troops that listened to the announcement from Britain:

The Prime Minister has flown to Basra to announce that 1,000 servicemen would return home by Christmas, leaving a contingent of 4,000.
The move was widely seen as an attempt to prepare the ground for a snap general election. But he faced severe criticism for alleged spin after it emerged that half of the withdrawals had previously been announced and hundreds of the troops were already home. …
Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, accused Mr Brown of treating the troops as “a political football”.
“Does this man have no shame? Once you read the small print you realise we are back to the same old spin. Five hundred of these troops have already been announced and 270 are back in the UK.[“]

Since replacing Tony Blair earlier this year, Brown has made a number of policy announcements cast as new directions, but wound up being restatements of existing policy. The Basra announcement appears to be another example of claiming credit for work already accomplished. In this case, it may have raised the hopes of the men in Basra falsely, believing that more of them would get withdrawn than actually planned.
Brown will face a tough time when he returns to Parliament. Normally, policy announcements are made in the Commons. His flight to Basra to announce what appeared to be a major decision, at least according to his own rhetoric, looks like grandstanding to his critics. Brown had promised specifically not to do that, and the opposition will undoubtedly remind him of that fact when he returns.
If Brown decides to hold an election, it will probably only give a slight dent to the lead that Labour has in the UK. They have remained highly popular despite the Iraq war, and Brown can expect a rather easy ride to retain his position. He had better make sure he isn’t double-counting voters the way he double-counted troops to be sure of his support first, however.

8 thoughts on “Creative Accounting At 10 Downing Street?”

  1. Sounds like Brown is following in the footsteps of Tony Blair,
    http://www.city-journal.org/html/17_3_oh_to_be.html
    “Blair even became the first serving prime minister in history to find himself questioned by the police in Downing Street, under caution of self-incrimination, in the course of a criminal investigation—in this case, into the selling of seats in the House of Lords. Small wonder that for much of the population, truth and Blair now appear to inhabit parallel universes. Reflecting the country’s mood is the famous remark that Gordon Brown made to Blair: “There is nothing that you could say to me now that I could ever believe.””

  2. Despite his popularity in America, Tony Blair was extremely unpopular in the U.K. at the conclusion of his term in office for his use of lies, deception, omissions, and distortion in operating his government, of which Brown was a part.
    As Theodore Darymple famously said of Tony Blair:
    “Blair even became the first serving prime minister in history to find himself questioned by the police in Downing Street, under caution of self-incrimination, in the course of a criminal investigation—in this case, into the selling of seats in the House of Lords. Small wonder that for much of the population, truth and Blair now appear to inhabit parallel universes. Reflecting the country’s mood is the famous remark that Gordon Brown made to Blair: “There is nothing that you could say to me now that I could ever believe.””
    It sounds like Brown is trudging down the same sordid path.

  3. Isn’t this exactly what General Petraeus and George Bush just did? They announced troop withdrawals as if they were something new instead of what everyone knew was going to happen anyway. The army has been overstretched and all the experts have been saying for a year that deployment schedules would force a drawdown in the spring. Bush then comes forward and says that we’re drawing down because we are “winning.”
    Bush & Brown are both putting lipstick on a pig.

  4. Teresa, there’s a difference between unannounced-but-press-“leaks”-mean-everybody-knows *future* drawdowns, and “already home, sitting on the tarmac at Heathrow, and watching the bloody speech!”

  5. Teresa, there’s a difference between unannounced-but-press-“leaks”-mean-everybody-knows *future* drawdowns, and “already home, sitting on the tarmac at Heathrow, and watching the bloody speech!”
    —————–
    What would that difference be? Putting on red lipstick instead of pink on the pig? You’re cutting hairs awfully thin there.

  6. There’s no question but that the Iraq War is unpopular in the U.K., and that the U.S. interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq were and are unpopular with a sizable, left-wing minority in the Democrat Party here in the U.S. That unpopularity has existed from the day after 9/11.
    Elsewhere among the American people, the unpopularity of the war has resulted from the perception that we were failing to stabilize the country, and that the situation was worsening.
    The evidence is that Petraeus’s strategy is succeeding, and that the situation in Iraq is stabilizing. As the public comes to understand the improvements, opinions are changing in favor of U.S. perseverance. That’s bad news for Democrats. They’re the ones scrambling to change the color of the lipstick on their own, anti-war, defeatist “pig”.

  7. a question for quickjustice:
    Let’s say the surge continues to work well enough that military and civilian deaths have dropped significantly by March ’08 but the Iraqi government remains divided into next spring and has made no progress on national recinciliation or other benchmarks.
    In that case will you continue to support military involvement in Iraq as fervently as you do now?

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