INSIDE OUT: The pendulum has swung so far from the Thatcherite '80s that Corporate Man feels he can moan in public about too much competition

INSIDE OUT: The pendulum has swung so far from the Thatcherite '80s that Corporate Man feels he can moan in public about too much competition - In 1994, Gordon Brown had a characteristically elliptical phone conversation with Jack Cunningham, then the Lab

by ROBERT PESTON, editorial director, Quest (www.csquest.com)E-mail: rpeston@csquest.com.

In 1994, Gordon Brown had a characteristically elliptical phone conversation with Jack Cunningham, then the Labour front bench spokesman on trade and industry. Cunningham thought they were having a general chat about the merits of competition, but the shadow chancellor believed he was alerting Cunningham to an imminent and dramatic shift in the party's industrial policy.

A few days later, Brown nailed Labour's colours to the mast. The party that had for decades believed in giving state aid to ailing companies and in industrial interventionism to create national corporate champions had gone all liberal. From now on, the most important role for a future Labour government would be to prevent big companies from abusing their market power.

The most trivial aspect in this was that Cunningham believed he hadn't been consulted, whereas Brown felt he could prove he had kept Black Jack in the loop. So began years of miscommunication between Brown and his colleagues, which camouflaged his steady and inexorable accretion of responsibility for vast swathes of domestic policy-making.

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