By Michael MacLeod
BELEAGURED PM Gordon Brown conjured up some unexpected support yesterday – from Harry Potter author JK Rowling.
The Prime Minister is under increasing pressure after leaks about cabinet members’ expenses appeared as if by magic yesterday.
But like a Quidditch pro on a flying broomstick, spellbound Rowling swooped to his defence, heaping praise on her fellow Scot.
A day after David Cameron demanded Brown call an election, the megabucks writer said she would vote for Brown if the Tory leader’s fantasy became reality.
She said: “The 58-year-old Brown is frequently dubbed “dour”.
“I know him as affable, funny and gregarious, a great listener, a kind and loyal friend.
“These are strange and turbulent times, but issues of fairness, equality and protection of the poor have never been more important.
“I still want Gordon Brown in charge.”
The Harry Potter author – who donated £1 million to the Labour Party last September – is a lone voice of support amid a storm of criticism of Brown’s leadership.
He was ridiculed by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears over his decision to go on YouTube to make an announcement about his plans for MPs’ expenses.
Ironically, reports surfaced yesterday that Mr Brown paid his brother over £6,500 to get his Westminster flat cleaned.
A raft of similar claims against his Cabinet have also been reported, but Downing Street insists no rules were broken.
Ms Rowling said it was Brown’s wizard ways with cash in his time as Chancellor that helped her through tough times in the mid-90s as “a lone parent struggling to get by”.
With the Harry Potter series said to be over, the world’s best-selling author put pen to paper in Time magazine.
She wrote: “Back in the mid-1990s, when he was new labour’s brooding, intellectual heavyweight, I was a lone parent struggling to get by.
“He said he was not interested in stigmatizing the poor but in finding solutions for their predicament.
“I was tired of hearing government ministers lambaste the likes of me as irresponsible scroungers. I wanted Gordon Brown in charge.”
But now it’s Brown’s Cabinet who are being labasted as a scroungers, with the details of 13 ministers’ expenses claims leaked to the press yesterday.
Among them was justice secretary Jack Straw’s bid to claw back £1,500 on council tax on his second home and Hazel Blears’ claim for three different properties in a single year, spending almost £5,000 of taxpayers’ money on furniture in three months.
A spokesman for the ministers said their claims were all within parliamentary rules and approved by the Fees Office.
Brown came second in Time magazine’s annual list of the 100 Most Influential people in the world.
Topping the Time 100 was American senator Sir Edward Kennedy, 77, who Arnold Schwarzenegger described as “a liberal icon”.
Focussing strongly on finance in her article for the magazine, Ms Rowling praised Mr Brown’s ‘responsibility’ with money.
She said: “While our economy grew strongly, he could have stood back and done nothing; on the contrary, he brought in and continually drove up the minimum wage, and 600,000 children and a million pensioners were raised out of poverty.
“Brown believed the wealthy would always be able to look after themselves; it was people at the other end of the economic scale that government ought to be helping.
“When capitalism shuddered on its foundations last year, Brownite words like responsibility and morality started issuing from the unlikeliest politicians.
“Global financial regulation, something Brown had advocated long before last September, shot to the top of the political agenda.
“Now Prime Minister, Brown took a lead among European leaders in setting a course for economic recovery.
“He hosted the most important meeting of the world’s major economies in years. In doing so, the British press said, he had become ‘Chancellor to the world’.”
Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray was quick to deny that Ms Rowling had an agenda.
He said: “JK Rowling gets right to the point about what is really important to ordinary people.
“She recognises that Gordon Brown has proved he is the right person to deal with the big issues facing the country and lead the economic recovery.
“They respect her views as they know JK Rowling does not have an agenda.
“Despite her success she has not lost contact with her roots.
“She realises that Gordon’s values and vision for Scotland and the UK are the ones that connect with the public.”