Was Brown being serious or just playing politics?
Perhaps the element that shows the level of seriousness that Brown attached to his desire to create â€œa Government of all the talentsâ€ is the job that was actually offered to Paddy Ashdown – Northern Ireland secretary. Important? Yes – but not as big a job as it was now the power sharing government at Stormont is operating properly.
Surely given Ashdown’s former role as the international community’s High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina the position that Brown should have put forward was that of Foreign Secretary? This would have been appropriate to the man and would have underlined the seriousness of Gordon’s intent.
Offering the job Foreign Secretary to Ashdown would have put the whole initiative on a different level and would have been a lot harder for Paddy and Ming to turn down. As it was the Northern Ireland post appeared almost an insult.
It was as though the entire strategy was designed to underline that the incoming Prime Minister was trying to become bipartisan in the expectation that the proposal would be refused.
How the so-called “Ashdown snub” will play in the polls is hard to call. But the fact that Brown went ahead with his proposal to Ashdown even after Ming had turned down the whole idea shows a level of bad faith that might not go down very well.
In the long-term it will certainly be recalled by the Lib Dems if Brown’s Labour does not manage to reach the 325 seat mark at the next general election and is looking for partners.