And Geoffrey Wheatcroft is one of them, as can be seen from this article in today's Guardian:
The past week has not been a happy one for those who held what Robert Harris, writing in the Guardian 18 months ago, called the "peculiar - one might almost say touching - view prevalent on these pages that Brown, once he becomes prime minister, is suddenly going to provide an entirely different kind of Labour government". First came the bullying of Admiral Lord West into an about-turn and "Aye, aye, sir!", then the humiliation of David Miliband when Downing Street tipped off the Sun that the foreign secretary's Bruges speech on Europe had been blue-pencilled by the prime minister's office. A different kind of government? The end to spin that Gordon Brown himself promised last summer? Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell at their worst couldn't have displayed greater brutality or trickiness.
But for Kremlinologists trying to analyse what's happening inside the Brown politburo, there was a still more fascinating moment after the prime minister's own speech on foreign affairs at the Lord Mayor of London's banquet, when it was discussed on Newsnight by Denis MacShane and Dr Irwin Stelzer. MacShane need not detain us: the Labour MP has a permanent hangdog look and no doubt a good deal to be hangdoggy about, though he still evinces a loyalty to the government that is rather touching when you think of the way Tony Blair hired him and fired him.
He is surely nothing like so interesting or influential as Stelzer. On the face of it no more than an expatriate American economist, this clever, genial old chap is a seriously powerful figure in our political life: professional eminence grise and oracle of the neoconservative movement - he edited an anthology called Neoconservatism, which very properly included a contribution by Blair and a jacket puff by Stelzer's good friend Brown. He is also, in Andrew Neil's chillingly jocose phrase, Rupert Murdoch's representative on earth.
It was he who brought instructions to Downing Street in 2004 that Blair must promise a referendum on the European constitution or lose the support of the Murdoch press, and the promise was duly given - which left Blair and now Brown wriggling.
Stelzer denied having uttered any such threats, it should be said. But then he has also said that "Mr Murdoch doesn't tell the Times or Sunday Times what position to take because he has an undertaking not to do that when he acquired the papers", and anyone with even the most cursory knowledge of Murdoch who could say that with a straight face deserves the Nobel prize for chutzpah on top of his other academic distinctions.
What's so refreshing about Stelzer is his candour. Whenever he talks about the Anglo-American relationship there's never any namby-pamby pretence that the United Kingdom is in any useful sense of the words a sovereign country. You're a client state and don't you forget it, says the doctor. Nothing displayed this more clearly than his ferocious reaction - shown by the Washington neocons in general but in particular by Stelzer, who returned to the theme last Tuesday - to one particular appointment of Brown's.
"First prize for appalling goes to Mark Malloch Brown," Stelzer wrote at the time. While Washington understood that Brown had to make the occasional gesture of sham independence, "inviting Malloch Brown into this 'government of all the talents' is to include one talent too many". It was the voice of the KGB rezident in Sofia 40 years ago, reminding the Bulgarian government in comradely but firm tones that the promotion of suspected "rotten elements" could not be regarded by Moscow as a purely internal matter. Seltzer could have been echoing Brezhnev's minatory words to Dubcek in Prague: "Your frontiers are our frontiers."
The deviationism or thought crimes of which Malloch Brown stood accused were his support for the UN, where he used to work, his criticism of the Bush junta, and his opposition to the Iraq war. The fact that all these views are broadly shared by the British electorate is neither here nor there. It's no part of the job of any British minister to insult the imperial power.
Now the voice of the rezident has been amplified by others. There was a ferocious hatchet job on Malloch Brown in the penultimate Spectator, nowadays the epicentre of Anglo-neoconservatism. (It was co-written by Claudia Rosett, "journalist-in-residence" at the "US-based Foundation for Defence of Democracies", whose website explains that it was originally sponsored by a group of rich philanthropists who wanted to "offer Israel the kind of PR that the Israeli government seemed unable to provide itself".) And those denunciations have done the trick. Last summer Malloch Brown mused out loud that London and Washington might not in future be joined at the hip, but he has now been induced to make a recantation worthy of a Soviet show trial.
In his speech on Tuesday the prime minister himself said ingratiatingly: "I am a lifelong admirer of America. I have no truck with anti-Americanism in Britain or elsewhere in Europe and I believe that our ties with America founded on values we share constitute our most important bilateral relationship."
Those are interesting and thought-provoking words. Is it "anti-American" to regret that we were dragged into the Iraq adventure purely to demonstrate Blair's - and Brown's - fealty to our most important bilateral partner, or even to wonder occasionally whether the last few years may not have raised questions about the fitness of the US for its role as hegemonic superpower? Does the prime minister have in mind the "shared values" of Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib? Of "extraordinary rendition" and "enhanced interrogation"?
When Brown visited the US last summer his manner was less than effusive, which predictably enough disappointed Seltzer. Remarking that people in the White House had complained to him that the new prime minister was curt and surly - hadn't they ever heard anything about him? - Seltzer contrasted this with the gloriously opportunistic display just given in Washington by Nicolas Sarkozy. And he played yet another riff on the terrible danger from Europe that the British blindly fail to recognise. To which the answer is that the European Union has many failings, and plenty of room for criticism, but that it was not the commission in Brussels or parliament in Strasbourg that led us into a needless, criminal and catastrophic war.
One other thing has worried Seltzer about Brown in the past: his "domestic priorities and priorities about eliminating poverty - he has some sort of bell that goes off in his head when he sees poverty anywhere". But then Brown spent one weekend recently with Murdoch, and Stelzer is a regular visitor to Downing Street. With a bit of luck and guidance, that annoying bell can surely be silenced.