Thursday, June 28, 2007

Foreign affairs advisory role for Shirl the Whirl?

The Times reports that Gordon Brown is discussing a "foreign affairs advisory" role with Shirley Williams. I seem to remember some Liberal Democrats acting as advisors to Labour office holders before - for example, Susan Kramer on the Transport for London board. Lord Carlile's "independent" advisory role on terrorism, although somewhat controversial, is another example. There are great risks involved with this sort of thing, however.

I am sure Shirley can add a great deal of sense to Brown's foreign policy.

The greatest risk of this would be for her to become attached to an ill-founded foreign policy. Indeed, until Brown makes it very clear that he recognises the mistakes of the Iraq invasion, for which he shares personal responsibility, I don't see how Shirley Williams can associate herself with the man. I don't see Brown taking that step in a hurry - not properly anyway. I don't think we should be seduced by the all the glitz and "shiny new" froth of the Brown entrance into Number 10 Downing Street - remember he's actually lived there for years! (There is no change in the occupant actually living/sleeping in Number 10 - that's ironic and emblematic isn't it?)

Having said that, I think we need to be careful not to reject this proposal out of hand, as we will begin to look very uncooperative in the public's eyes, especially after the Paddyjob farrago.

It would be reassuring if we could know that Brown is also talking to other parties about such advisory roles. I think it is very dangerous indeed for us to the only party to have people in advisory roles such as this.

I think this offer should be left well alone. I don't see Shirley disobeying the party leadership on this, by the way. She is just not that sort of person.

Update: The role which was offered (not yet responded to) was as an adviser on nuclear proliferation. I am more relaxed about that. It does not imply endorsement of Brown's foreign policy, which the initial reports suggested.

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