Posted tagged ‘Gordon Brown’

Loose lips sink ships

April 29, 2010

You cannot – or at any rate, I cannot – help feeling sorry for Gordon Brown. Everything he touches now seems to turn to horse manure. The bright idea of his advisers to send him out amongst the people has turned into a nightmare story about the British Prime Minister, thinking he was out of earshot of everyone, being recorded (and then broadcast) complaining about a voter who had just questioned him. And then the whole thing is, in my view, compounded by the totally daft decision for Brown to go and visit the same voter at home to apologise in person.

Gordon Brown is, I think, a complex man doing a job for which he is not a natural fit. But he is not a bad man, and for that matter he is not a bad politician. Silly and all though yesterday’s gaffe is, it shouldn’t matter; except to the extent that it exposes some terrible campaign management and a catastrophically bad sense of political judgement.

I do however wonder about the ethics of the broadcasters publishing these comments in the first place. And I wonder about the self-righteousness of some of the responses. And I am horrified at the train wreck that is this Labour campaign.

Judging the writer: in defence of Gordon Brown

November 12, 2009

I confess I am not necessarily a keen supporter of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. While I was generally impressed with him as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he seems to me to be less than sure-footed as Tony Blair’s successor – the job does not appear to be a natural fit. But this week I am on his side, and strongly so, as he has to deal with what I think is a totally outrageous campaign by the Sun newspaper, which I trust is backfiring on them.

As many readers here will probably know, the cause of all the trouble was a hand-written letter of condolence that Brown sent to the mother of a British soldier recently killed in Afghanistan, Jamie Janes. The letter contained several spelling mistakes, including an apparent misspelling of the fallen soldier’s surname. The mother passed the letter to the Sun, who wrote what I would consider a nasty piece severely attacking Brown and accusing him of being disrespectful and careless.

Of course anyone would feel sympathy for a parent who has lost a son in such circumstances, and yet it is, to me at least, incomprehensible that Mrs Janes would want to wage a campaign, not around the causes of her son’s death, but the Prime Minister’s bad spelling. But then again, grief can do terrible things to a person, and I can easily accept that anger is understandable.

No such excuse for the Sun. Apparently it is known that Gordon Brown is dyslexic. And I for one, apparently in common with most of those who have reacted to all this, find it more striking that Brown wrote a letter by hand. He subsequently even rang Mrs Janes to apologise for the misspelling.

All I can say is that, in my opinion, the behaviour of the Sun is disgraceful. The role of the media in securing a democratic and open society is vital; malicious campaigns of this kind have the potential effect of bringing the media into disrepute, which is dangerous for society. This case seems to me to be more than a failure of judgement: it is a failure to understand the nature and duties of responsible journalism.

Talking our way out of the crisis

June 8, 2009

Here is an interesting news item from yesterday, referring to the political crisis in Britain in the aftermath of the local and European elections and the future of Prime Minister Gordon Brown:

‘Labour MP Tony Wright said that while Mr Brown was a “clunky communicator”, he was a “towering figure” in the aftermath of the financial crisis.’

Well yes, a ‘clunky communicator’ (an expression I’ll remember and use). What the statement doesn’t acknowledge – indeed, what it denies – is that you can’t really be a ‘towering figure’ in politics if you have difficulty communicating the message. Politics is all about ‘the message’, the ability to persuade the public and key decision-makers in industry and public life that you have a strategy and that this strategy will make a difference. A tongue-tied Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg would probably not be remembered today; or Winston Churchill, if he had been unable to express to his people the sense of determination and courage that carried them through the dark days of 1940 and 1941. In politics, communication is not an optional extra, it is everything.

In Ireland, we have similar issues to address. I would argue that the losses suffered by Fianna Fail in the elections are to a major extent about communication. I suspect that by and large the government has the right policies. But it has not so much been bad at communicating them, it hasn’t really tried at all. I cannot begin to understand why, in Ireland’s worst crisis since independence, the Taoiseach has not been addressing the nation on television and radio, indeed several times. We need to know where we are going, and why it’s worth making sacrifices, and how the government is going down this hard road with us, and what the rewards will be at the end. We don’t need to read that from Dail reports, or from newspaper accounts of party meetings – we need to hear it directly, addressed to us. Without that, all we see and feel is the pain, and all we want to do is lash out at whoever is inflicting that.

There are big lessons to be learned from Barack Obama, who has understood all this really well, and who is a master at having a good message and communicating it skilfully. Here in these islands, and for that matter in Europe, we seem to have lost sight of this. We had better catch on quickly, for widespread popular anger is a very dangerous thing.