Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Gordon, Gordon, GORDON

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I had a little bit of angst yesterday after dissecting the psychology of the Prime Minister. It has to be admitted that I am not, in fact, a doctor. I read a bit of Jung when I was younger, that's all. Am I really fit to pronounce on the mental state of our Dear Leader?

Then Mr Brown, ever the gentleman, came along and saved me. 'Good, good,' he said to a certain Mrs Duffy, after she asked him about benefits and immigration. 'Nice to meet you. Good family.'

Then, in the car: 'Who set that up? It was a disaster. She was a bigoted woman.'

Mrs Duffy was a lifelong Labour voter who may not be quite so lifelong after that. Money quote comes from a reporter who spoke to her afterwards: 'She did not even know what a bigot was.'

The defence, being mounted manfully by Lord Mandelson of Foy, Andy Burnham, and Alistair Campbell is 'he's only human'. It was a human reaction, apparently. We all get crazy sometimes. It's very, very bad luck for them that Mrs Duffy is a widow who works with handicapped children.

The thing about the stickability of gaffes is that they have to feed into an already existing narrative. If some national treasure like Joanna Lumley described someone as bigoted, we would all assume that she had a keen ear for prejudice. When the Prime Minister hurls that word around, especially after saying 'good family', it confirms the lurking suspicion that he really does not like us voters very much. It illustrates the difference between public, smiling, politicking Gordon, and private, growling, telephone-throwing Gordon. It fits the pattern that, in his eyes, when someone challenges him, they are not only wrong, but bad.

The Only Human defence is not helping. It would be much better to say: it was wrong, he regrets it, he has apologised, now do let us move on to our plans for giving every single ordinary hard-working Briton a puppy. If Nick Clegg or David Cameron had called a member of the public bigoted, I do not think that Lord Mandelson or Alistair Campbell would have reacted more in sorrow than in anger. I suspect it would have turned out that Mr Clegg and Mr Cameron were not 'only human' but in fact the spawn of Satan come to raze our fields and despoil our women.

The curious thing about all this is it almost makes me feel sorry for Gordon Brown. I stick by my analysis. I think he is enraged, entitled, and unable to admit to his own flaws. I think he has made catastrophic mistakes with the economy, and I get madly grumpy that he will not face them. I wish he would stop doing that weird phoney mad uncle smile. I wish he had not sold gold at rock bottom prices. I wish he was not running a once proud party into the ground. I wish he did not have an unattractive tendency to blame the people around him for things which are his fault. I hold him culpable for the lack of kit and helicopters in Afghanistan. But after all that, he is still a human being. Mrs Brown, whom everyone says is very nice, loves him. He has two small boys who must see him not as failed leader, but good old dad. He is not running around selling crack to minors and drowning kittens with his bare hands. He is not evil. There is a tiny edge of the pitiful in watching him flail about, unable to get anything right. I take no pleasure in his downfall. I do, however, think it is complete.

In the final, Shakespearian twist, it was Mrs Duffy, a Labour loyalist, on her way to the shops to buy a loaf of bread, who, quite without meaning to, struck the fatal blow. The ironies of that shall echo around the commentariat until there is no more ink with which to write. It was, in the end, the unkindest cut of all.


  1. It's at times like these that I just want to take him aside, give him a hug and tell him to stop listening to Peter Mandelson. I had huge respect for Gordon Brown. Still do in many ways. But his inability to admit he was wrong does worry me. I suspect your analysis may be right, even while I still think that at root, he is only human. Caring, well-intentioned, single-minded and blind to his own flaws, an only human. I still think he's better than the alternatives, and I still don't know how to cast my vote.

  2. I feel he has no vision and is probably very small-minded. I am embarrassed that he is representing me on the world stage. I can't bear that his wife is trailling around canvassing with him, trying to make him look human. Do they think that we are not clever enough to see through their transparent PR spin attempts? I can't bear Sarah's twittering, it's just so naff. And have you noticed how she is trying to turn herself into Michelle Obama, even to the belt round the cardigan? I'm afraid I lost it with Gordon when, after all his education, all that he has seen in the world, the books has read, the plays he has seen, whatever culture he has been exposed to that the only quote he could rustle up to set the scene for his Prime Ministership was his school motto - I will try my utmost.... and even then he didn't do it in the Latin.

  3. You wouldn't have thought that Greece was in financial meltdown and Spain and Portugal also in financial turmoil. Or that the IFS grimly reports we are due for a round of hideous cuts whoever gets in. Pretty relevant to the leaders' debate tomorrow on the economy one might think. No we have to have the first 8 mins of the 6 o'clock news on Radio 4 and the whole of the internet news world devoted to what the media are depressingly calling "bigotgate". Gordon is no great favourite of mine but I'm certainly not deciding my vote on this - the country has bigger problems and not all can be laid at the door of politicians. We probably however get the politicians we deserve - none of the 3 leaders exactly inspire - although generally I prefer grumpy to airbrushed myself.

  4. He must have had kittens when he realised that radio mike was still on... xx

  5. I slightly missed the furore over this until 10pm last night, due to various out-and-about commitments, but really... what a disaster. But I have a feeling although it will be a tremendous personal disaster - and may even encourage the coup-fighters in their Labour backrooms - it probably won't affect the polls that much in the end and tonight's debate will once again be the headlines tomorrow, albeit perhaps a little tainted.
    Lovely lovely pieces on GB though, T. x
    PS I'm putting some more, unsolicited, entirely gratuitous and faintly repetitive Spring pictures on the blog later to see us through the oncoming weather...

  6. Sorry cant stand the man.... I think he is such a phoney .. I have never liked him. He was so dower throughout the years of opposition.
    It couldn't have happened to a nicer man.. Someone at Sky News knew him much better than he knew himself, I hate this kind of mud slinging politics .. But this was out of the horses mouth :)
    Great Post

  7. There, but for the grace of God, go ALL of them.

    I think that any of them could have said something similar about a tricky conversation with a punter - and could have been caught out with a switched on mike.

    Bad luck that it happened to be Gordon. Who was in charge of his mike anyway?

    Ali x

  8. The other thing I quite forgot to say but does bother me is how utterly hurt and bewildered this woman must feel. The press remain camped outside panting for a comment, which she must surely not wish to make, given Mandelson's probably been on the phone threatening her with Nagini.
    And I am AMAZED at her restraint as Gordon stood outside her house with a rictus grin apologising to 'Gillian' that she didn't throw open a window and shout 'That's Mrs Duffy to you.'

  9. I just saw this on the news and came straight to your blog for your take on this, so thanks for another brilliant post. I'm in Australia and this happened to our Prime Minister too, many many years ago - he called an old man "a silly old bugger" didn't do his campaign too much harm as I recall.

  10. I feel a bit sorry for him too- though again I say it- poisoned chalice- know when it's not going to work- move on. Sometimes it's the best thing to do- fight the battle from another angle, fight the battle in a different way. Vanity lead Brown to think this wouldn't happen. He should never have taken up the premiership in my opinion.

    Tony Blair did this to the Labour party though not Brown alone- and honestly they let Blair and then Brown, taking power away from parliament, having such a presidential style of leadership backed up by an oligarchy of elected cabinet members and aides who didn't really care what the rest of parliament- or for that matter the country thought. A politician who doesn't respect our parliament- which for many faults is pretty amazing and has lasted pretty well- is not a politician I want. They spent an awful lot of money and didn't make it improve things.

    I would consider myself a socialist by the way (if not more)- but there is no point in kidding oneself. Still I do fear a Tory government, and I fear a Lib Dem one (if it would happen) if they would really lead us into the Euro now and more debt while half of southern Europe is in total financial meltdown.

  11. Personally the whole thing does make me feel sorry for Brown, and I am no Brown apologist.

    It also makes me very angry at the media, specifically Sky, the Sun and so on for making this reported the way it was. For releasing the micced up gaff and also for it being reported in such a way that this morning I heard someone on the radio say

    "She just wanted an honest answer to an honest question, instead she got a torrent of abuse"

    I seriously think the way this has been warped is horrendous and upsetting and shows little respect for us. And what's worse is the low opinion people seem to have of us, and our ability to find out the truth seems to have been vindicated by that person quoted up there. A sad day for news.

    I always find your comments on this very clear and refreshing though, and that makes me a little less angry. So thank-you.

  12. WOW. My READERS. You never cease to inspire me. I get worried that I shall be boring people with all this politics nonsense, and then you all engage like gangbusters with your thoughtful and nuanced comments. It's not only stimulating for me, but also immensely gratifying. Thank you.

    Also, I would just like to ooint out that we are all women here. Who SAID that the ladies don't have any interest in the political? Probably the same person who said that we spend all our time contemplating shoes.


  13. This isn't nineteen oatcake Tania - Handicaps are for golf. She works with children with disabilities.

    The whole thing reminded me of when Jesse Jackson shared his wish to cut Obama's nuts off...

  14. Sorry, that sounded more jolly in my head than it looks in type. These faux pas seem to be catching...


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