One of the consequences of the Smeargate saga is that politicians and journalists are now feeling emboldened to speak out about Gordon Brown's back-room operations.
Alice Miles has written a piece for The Times today in which she talks about the character assassination plots run by Brown's close advisers. Leaving aside the question of whether or not journalists are complicit in spreading this sort of poison (I think they are and Iain Dale has posted on this too), for me this raises an even more important question. Here is an excerpt from Miles' piece:
The poisoning was at its worst in the run-up to the leadership noncontest two years ago. Yesterday I spoke to somebody who balked at challenging Mr Brown then, because he couldn’t face the poisoners. “It’s the reason why Gordon came to office untested,” he said. “When I considered challenging him for the leadership, people warned me it would be a very unpleasant campaign; and it would have been an unpleasant campaign because Gordon’s people would have run it in an extremely vicious way.”
As he spoke, I remembered being told at the time by a number of journalists that one potential candidate was having a mental breakdown, and there was some embarrassing story involving him and a woman doing the rounds. The tales seemed obviously to have been invented by Mr Brown’s muck-spinners. In place of ideas, smears: that contest should have been conducted by open debate, not whispered poison. But Mr Brown was afraid of the debate.
Now this is all hedged through anonymous sources (ironically the exact problem that Miles is identifying in her piece) but it suggests to me that there is a serious question mark over Gordon Brown's legitimacy as Prime Minister of this country. He was not tested in a Labour Party leadership election. His spinners have said previously that this means he was elected "unopposed", i.e. by default in the absence of anybody challenging him. However, if the quotes in the above article are true, it is not because there was nobody who wanted to stand against him, but because potential rivals were afraid of what Brown's bully boys would do if they were to stand. It could be argued that they should have had more courage, and I do think this too, however if I was going to put myself in the firing line for unfounded smears against me and my family from such a powerful machine then I may well have thought twice too.
So, there is now a body of evidence assembling that Gordon Brown became leader without a contest because of his spin machine. If anybody had stood against him, you never know what could have happened. Funny things can happen during leadership campaigns. Look what happened to David Davis who was the clear front runner in the 2005 Conservative leadership election. I have no doubt that Brown feared this too which is why his machine crushed any chance of there being a challenger.
In the light of all this, can Gordon Brown claim any sort of legitimacy to be our Prime Minister?