Living Next Door

As it became clear on the BBC News/Two Scotland panel that the Scottish National Party (SNP) had taken the Glasgow East seat from Labour last Friday morning, there was a blissful hour or two where political commentators were still sleeping and Douglas Alexander was able to give a calm analysis of what the victory meant for Labour. Come six o'clock, the peace was shattered. The analysts and commentators started to once again preach the downfall of Gordon Brown. I freely admit that I was and am among them, his position is untenable. The most interesting part of this is how Labour allowed the second most senior meber of the party to move next door, unchallenged.

Gordon Brown became Chancellor on the 2nd of May 1997. He stayed in that role for just under ten years and two months. Then, he became the Prime Minister. A Labour MP told The World at One on Radio 4 this afternoon, that a PM needs different skills than a Chancellor. He is correct, but a point that he didn't make, and that no-one seems to make, is that the head of a nations finances needs different skills than a politician. I have long been amazed that we continue to have a politician running the public finances, especially in an economic downturn.

In America, the Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, is a former CEO and Chair of Goldman Sachs. His predecessor, John W. Snow had a long and successful career in the rail industry in addition to serving on several boards. G.W.'s first Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neil, served as the CEO of Alcoa, the worlds third largest aluminium producer, and as the Chair of the RAND Corporation.

Ultimately, history will judge whether Gordon Brown was a better Chancellor or PM, economist or politician. The important lesson from Brown's troubles is that there is a big difference between politics and economics, and maybe we should have a look at whether we really want the persons in charge of our finances to be in number 11 Downing Street just in the hope of moving next door.

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