Gordon Brown may have become something of a political recluse but the same cannot be said for his GOATs, the ministers of the so-called Government Of All the Talents (GOATs). Brexit seems to be their latest battleground of choice and they are attracting criticism from leading figures on their own sides.
On the pro-Brexit side is Digby Jones. Jones and Brown were certainly close when one ran the CBI and the other the Treasury: the CBI’s directors were frequently treated to a recount of Brown’s Sunday evening calls at their regular Monday morning meetings.
But as a minister Jones was “embarrassingly poor” and “he gave every impression of resenting being accountable to parliament” says one well-placed observer.
Jones announced his intention to resign as trade minister after less than a year in office and few in Whitehall missed him when he’d gone and fewer still regarded his tenure as a success.
As a member of the Lords since then he has attracted more attention for his assiduous collection of attendance fees than for anything else – reportedly collecting over £15,000 for a continuing period in which he has said and asked nothing.
His silence in the chamber has not been matched by silence online. Where in a series outspoken colourful tweets he last month attracted the attention of Gary Lineker. This is understood to have prompted allies of International Trade Secretary and leading Brexiteer Liam Fox to urge Leave campaigns to severe all ties with him.
No, we should never give in to bullies so, please, just stfu. https://t.co/0pmht1zCyk
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) February 12, 2018
On the anti-Brexit side is Mark Malloch Brown. His career as a minister lasted a little longer than that of Jones though it is moot as to whether it was any more successful. He got off to a bad start when he told the Daily Telegraph that “It’s fine for me to be, for the first time in my life, the older figure, the wise eminence behind the young foreign secretary” – a comment which managed to combine arrogance and ignorance in equal measure.
Malloch Brown has never been accused of using his position in the House of Lords as a comfortable sinecure but he still managed to be silent in the House for almost seven years before recently speaking out on Europe.
He chairs anti-Brexit group “Best for Britain” which has essentially been notable for the ever widening ratio between funds raised and campaigns delivered.
“Malloch Brown is like the wealthiest Trotskyist you’ve ever met – happy to tell you how pure his opposition to Brexit is, unwilling to actually do much about it,” says and insider.
Tory rage at Best for Britain’s financial support from George Soros only served to widen the gap between the campaign’s money and its impact: the extremely unsavoury tone of some the attacks on Soros made donating to Malloch Brown’s outfit feel like more than a stand against Brexit but against xenophobia in general.
Best for Britain claim they are to use the money raised in a grand advertising campaign in the North of England, but it remains to be seen if they will really think Malborough Old Boy, Magdalene College Cambridge graduate and oil company executive Malloch Brown is going to be the face of the campaign if and when it arrives.