Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Gordon Abbott and Greg Brown

I’m currently reading the second volume of former Sunderland MP Chris Mullin’s political diaries. ‘Decline and Fall’ covers the period of transition from the Blair to Brown eras through to electoral defeat in May 2010. It forms the droll author’s pitchside musings on the web of intrigue and catalogue of mistake that define the period.

Whilst thumbing the pages this last week or so I’ve felt a rather odd parallel calcifying and repeatedly asked myself the same question – is Greg Abbott to Carlisle United what Gordon Brown was to the Labour cause?

I imagine that note has already led to a number of click-throughs but I hope some of you will stick with my facile commentary awhile; at least in my mind the case is quite compelling…

The Coup

In some quarters of Carlisle’s support Abbott has never been able to shake off terrace innuendo that he facilitated the downfall of his erstwhile gaffer – the lithe, showbiz John Ward was, some say, victim of a briefing campaign by Abbott and a number of senior pros, including ‘Abbott henchmen’ Paul Thirlwell and Graham Kavanagh.

Pause a moment and consider that – the unheralded, bruising back room boy who stood aside and allowed a shiny PR wizard into the role only to grow resentful and plot to overthrow when the good times stopped rolling? Sound familiar? For Abbott and Ward read Brown and Blair?

The Public Image

Gordon Brown – a great thinker, a global titan, the man who made the health service better for all, pay better for public sector workers, conditions better for young families and who according to many saved world finance.

Gordon Brown – public buffoon, PR man’s nightmare, persecuted for shortcomings with a microphone.

Greg Abbott – righted a sinking ship, brought consolidation and footballing improvement, a glut of good new players and links to great clubs and a shiny trophy.

Greg Abbott – public buffoon, PR man’s nightmare, persecuted for shortcomings with a microphone.

Failing Tactics

Much has been made recently of Abbott’s inability to find his best XI, his loyalty to personal friends, and often in the past to his perversion towards loan players and long ball tactics. Much too made of Carlisle’s inability to raise their game against mediocre opposition.

In Mullin’s account of things Brown is painted as obsessed with tinkering in minutiae – constantly proffering new and unnecessary initiatives, failing to get to grips with the talents of the likes of Jack Straw and David Miliband and, tellingly, an almost pathological need to shuffle his Ministerial pack at the first sign of danger.

Re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’s deck may be a little forward a metaphor for Greg at present but there certainly seem to be similarities.

The Denouement?

In Brown’s case this was, of course, defeat to Cameron’s Conservatives and Clegg’s Lib Dems. But this wasn’t before a number of staged coup attempts – first from obvious quarters (James Purnell and Patricia Hewitt) but latterly from loyal sages such as the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee and a number of Government whips. You’ll recall that David Miliband’s panic stopped Labour short of regicide and the ‘will they, won’t they’ saga fully and finally punctured Labour’s electoral hopes.

For Greg to fall the rebellion would need a Miliband like figure to call him out – though the Brunton Park heroes of the past who chatter in local pages are too loyal to BP’s ancien regime to provide that voice. I think Hughie McIlmoye enjoys his well earned hospitality a little too much for that. So what about one of the directors? If past form is anything to go by – our own electoral defeat, or relegation to League 2, could be in the offing. Nevertheless, last night’s JPT defeat to Accrington has seen a number of Abbott ‘uber-loyalists’ (as Mullin calls them) desert the cause.

Same problem, different context.

Who's Next?

The key to Labour’s maintenance of the status quo has always been cited as the surety of electoral defeat under Miliband, Alan Johnson or whoever else. The Brown fingerprints couldn't be cleaned away.

So who other than Abbott to kickstart the campaign? Aidy Boothroyd? No thanks. John Coleman? Can we afford the compensation? Paul Ince? One success and two failures, and would the fans accept his tainted MK Dons past? And even if someone were found would they wrest a decent side from their arrow straight path back to mid-table? It seems doubtful.

The Legacy?

It is oft said of Brown in dispatches that history will smile kindly on the work he did in his short time in the ‘top job’. One can’t help feeling the same may well be true of Abbott when his time comes too.

No comments:

Post a Comment