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What do Steve McCLaren and Gordon Brown have in common?


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There'll be no Great Escape for you either, Gordon ...


00:20am 23rd November 2007 commentIconSm.gif Comments (58) richard_littlejohn.jpg

Well, what did you expect? This is what always happens when an inadequate Number Two eventually gets his hands on the top job. There's even a sociological term for it, coined by a Canadian academic as long ago as 1968.


It's called The Peter Principle, which holds that everyone rises to his own level of incompetence.


If you're a football fan, you might think I'm referring to Steve McClaren, architect of England's ignominious exit from the European Championships.


McClaren was the hapless sidekick of the last England manager Sven Goran Eriksson, the sex-on-platform-soles Swede who scored in the bedroom more often than his teams scored on the pitch but still managed to qualify for three major tournaments in succession.


But it applies equally to Gordon Brown, for 13 years the unglamorous underling of political superstar Tony Blair, a style-over-substance spinmeister who led Labour to a recordbreaking three election victories.


The inventor of the Peter Principle would have had a field day with Gordon, let alone McClaren.


There are plenty of parallels between England's ex-as-of-yesterday-coach and our "new" Prime Minister.


Both of them eventually got the job after coming top in a field of one. In McClaren's case, all the other candidates thought better of it and he was the Last Man Standing. In Gordon's, rivals were either bullied or bribed into standing aside.


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And to be fair, each of them got off to a decent start. McClaren won a couple of soft home games until coming unstuck against the might of Macedonia.


Gordon began with a hat-trick in the first five minutes over floods, foot-and-mouth and the bungled terrorist attacks in Glasgow and London, even though they were all opportunist tap-ins rather than any flashes of individual brilliance.


But then it all began to unravel spectacularly. Just as England crashed 2-0 in Croatia, courtesy of a comic strip cock-up by goalkeeper Paul Robinson, so Gordon's dazzling run was brought to an abrupt halt by a piece of self-inflicted stupidity.


It's always the hubris which does for them. When England beat the star-studded soccer senors of Andorra 5-0 early on in the campaign, the assumption was that their name was already on the trophy. All they had to do was turn up in Austria next year and collect it.


By the time of the Labour conference in September, Gordon's gormless groupies had whipped themselves into such a frenzy of onanistic self-congratulation that they were convinced their man was the Master of the Universe. All they had to do was call a snap election and they'd be running round Wembley with the cup. The Tories would be crushed as easily as Andorra.


But in the same way McClaren sent out a team to get a draw in his final game, rather than go all out for a victory which would have ensured England finished top of the group, so Gordon lacked the courage to go in for the kill, frightened he just might lose.


That decision was the political equivalent of Paul Robinson's air kick in Croatia. Except that while all Robinson was guilty of was taking his eye off the ball, Gordon actually picked up the ball in the Opposition's penalty area with the open goal at his mercy, turned round and ran the length of the pitch to kick it into his own net.


They're not singing any more. Just as McClaren had a string of bad results, so Gordon has had a catalogue of calamities culminating in this week's scandal at the HMRC.


McClaren lost a few football matches. Gordon managed to lose the private banking details of 25 million people, not to mention the thick end of £20 billion (and counting) over Northern Rock.


And this is where the similarities end. Yesterday, the FA took out McClaren and shot him. If you foul up in football, you pay with your job - albeit with a £2.5million pay-off.


Not so in politics (even though the Prime Minister can look forward to a £2.5 million pension pot).


Although everything from the ruinously expensive and humiliating Northern Rock fiasco to the outrageous incompetence and indifference at the Revenue and Customs can be traced back directly to decisions taken by Gordon, he will cling on to office to the last of his well-chewed fingernails.


While at the end, McClaren conducted his last press conference with dignity, Gordon under fire behaves with all the grace of a cornered grizzly.


Just imagine that the roles had been reversed and Gordon had been manager of the England football team. He's the original Self Preservation Society.


Given his refusal to hold a referendum over the European constitution, he would probably have announced that there was no need for England to take part in the qualifying rounds.


Following Wednesday night's home defeat against Croatia, he would have refused to resign, insisting that it was "time to move on" and "draw a line" under England's elimination.

As the angry mob were erecting the gibbet, he would insist that he was "getting on with the job" which is "what people want me to do".


While he "regretted" the fact that the team under his charge had been comprehensively stuffed and millions of fans betrayed, "lessons have been learned".

Gordon would have announced a "wide-ranging review" under an "independent" Labour lackey into England's goalkeeping difficulties.


It was not "systemic" failure which cost England a place in Austria, but a series of "individual mistakes" beyond the control of the management.


How could he possibly be held responsible for the schoolboy errors of his defence? But he could assure us that measures had been taken.


The kit man has been suspended on full pay pending his retirement next year and the 22-year-old debutant goalkeeper is now under house arrest at a hotel in the Home Counties.


When challenged that he picked the team and chose the tactics, Gordon would refer to the "world class" friendly victory over Greece at Old Trafford and protest that he "wasn't going to take any lectures" from Fleet Street football pundits, even if they were former international footballers with a string of trophies to their name.


Banging the table, he would shout that it wasn't fair to blame him because all England's problems could be traced back to Graham Taylor's management in 1992.


If all else failed, he would produce an obscure set of ProZone statistics which "proved conclusively" that far from losing 3-2 to Croatia at Wembley, England had, in fact, won 6-0.


And just as over Northern Rock, the identity theft scandal, the pensions theft, the election that never was, inheritance tax, you name it, everyone would fall about laughing.

You can't say you weren't warned. To their credit, the football boys called McClaren right from the off. They all said he wasn't up to it.


When Gordon took over, though, the political pundits assured us this was "New Gordon" - a strong, listening, inclusive, supercompetent Prime Minister, who would lead us all to a Land of Hope and Dreams. Then again, they assured us there was going to be an election, too.


Not me, guv. I've always relied on what happens on the pitch.


The so-called Iron Chancellor has been exposed as a weak, cowardly, easily rattled, selfobsessed, buck-passing fraud - just as I told you from Day One.


Like McClaren, he's a loser. Unlike McClaren, he doesn't even have a brolly to shelter under. Even his staunchest supporters are leaving before the final whistle. Soon, they'll be calling for his head.

Bye bye, Gordon, old son. There's no Great Escape for you, either.


You're frit - and you know you are.

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