Politics drowns in rubbish…..

One of the drawbacks of  enduring the fag-end of a government is that politics becomes tired and the sorry incumbent becomes a figure of fun; unreasonably so in many cases. Three major news sites; The Times, The Telegraph and the BBC all lead on the Gordon Brown letter story. For those that missed the story; Brown appeared to misspell the name of a deceased soldier;

In a video distributed by the Sun newspaper, his mother Jacqui called the letter a “hastily scrawled insult”.

Now this is obviously a media-generated personal attack and I think it is fair to say that while the mothers sense of injury maybe understandable my personal sense of sympathy is reduced by the fact that she has seemingly actively encouraged its use as a weapon the Murdoch press can use personally against Brown. Following the decision of The Sun to switch to the Conservative camp we can, sadly, probably expect alot more stories like this. Brown obviously did not intend the slight; Iain Dale in a thoughtful and sober blog states that;

It is easy to understand the mother’s anger, but even his political opponents should tread very carefully before making political capital out of this. Gordon Brown has always had terrible handwriting. He writes in felt tip because of his lack of eyesight.

It’s easy to dismiss this kind of personal attack; most bloggers have indeed cut Brown some slack as Dale does in his blog as not meaning too much or else being a reflection of discontent over troops being in Afghanistan in the first place but when the political becomes too personal it looses it’s political content. You end-up with things happening like Gordon Brown effigies being burnt on Bonfire Night; something that actually happened in Ripon. Legitimate critiques of Gordon Brown’s policies (and there are plenty of them) become submerged in personalised rubbish and politics as a whole is cheapened.

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About darrellgoodliffe

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7 responses to “Politics drowns in rubbish…..”

  1. OxfordSpring says :

    Really good post – I agree with it almost entirely.

    My one disagreement is that you suggest that Brown is not to blame for these personal attacks, when in fact he invites them through being uncharismatic, lacking gravitas and acting as a man and not a statesman. If he did not make such a thing of his personality – his dower Scotsman, his smiley internet friend, the baby kisser of Mum’sNet – then there wouldnt be these stories.

    I totally take your warning that such issues blur policy arguments, but really, that’s all Brown’s fault!

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  2. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Oxford,

    Thanks :).

    What you say wouldn’t amount to a conscious invitation to attack somebody personally and I think it’s fair to say he doesn’t have entire control over his personality, I am sure it is not consciously crafted that way to the degree of wanting personal attacks. Arguably, he lacked the temperament to be PM in any case; but given the fact that the tail-end of the Blair saw a rise in mistrust of charisma it could have worked if the times had been different.

    However, he does try too hard I agree; he should stop trying to be Blair and use his strengths like I outline above. I thought the initial ‘Not Flash, Just Gordon’ ads were quite good as concepts but he is obviously marked by being in Blair’s shadow for so long. None of this excuses these kind of attacks though in my eyes…..

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  3. Matthew Huntbach says :

    Uncharismatic? What does that mean? It appears now to succeed in life, you have to have a particular sort of glib personality type. Those of us who are perfectly competent and everything else, but are quiet and shy and everything else that is meant by “uncharismatic” are to be constantly treated like shit. It is legal to discriminate against us, to bully us, and to make us feel even more shitty than we already feel because we don’t have the pseudo or actual cocaine fuelled personality that seems to be the only thing that matters these days.

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  4. OxfordSpring says :

    I apologise if I have caused you offence – it wasnt intended.

    My point is not that Brown invites such attacks by not being a pop-star or great orator or dower. My point is that he invites such attacks by trying to be all three! He worked well with his nose to the grindstone, “we dont care if the pilot is smiling” attitude, but then decided that he needed to go smile on YouTube and watch the Xfactor.

    However – and I would never discriminate against the shy or retiring – a leader must lead, its what we elect them for. If you want a strict defination of ‘charisma’ the Oxford English Dictionary states it as ‘the gift or power of leadership’. I think this nation would be in a terrible state if we stopped asking our leaders to lead in the name of discrimination.

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  5. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Matthew,

    I can kinda see your point but like it or not people do tend to demand something of their political leaders and this is as much the voters fault as the politicians themselves. What Oxford is saying is that Brown is trying to be something that he isn’t and this is why he makes himself a bit vulnerable.

    Oxford,

    True but I think Brown could have been the perfect antidote to Blair fatigue had he actually played to his strengths and not tried to be something he isn’t to emulate Blair.

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  6. Matthew Huntbach says :

    We have to distinguish between those attributes necessary to do the job, and those attributes not necessary but current fashion deems them necessary.

    At the moment it seems to me our society over-values a certain type of personality. I don’t think that has done us much good. Tony Blair had that personality type, and he was a rotten Prime Minister – too glib, refusing to listen to others, domineering, impulsive, but able to get away with murder because he came across as having “charisma”. The same applies to many of our business leaders, it has contributed towards the current economic crisis – too many people at the top who are domineering, impulsive but with “charisma” replacing real ability.

    If the voters demand that sort of personality in their politicians, but then find they have politicians who are self-centred liars, well, perhaps they ought to be made to question their assumptions about “charisma” being so valuable.

    The press will now kick Brown for almost anything he does. The fact that he’s got to the top by being a back-room type rather than charismatic leader is something else they can kick him for. I think there’s plenty he can be criticised for, but this is not a fair criticism. If we believe it is a fair criticism, well, we’re just pushing our way to having poor leaders because we over-value a quality which isn’t always that useful and can sometimes be harmful.

    The danger with us joining in the kicking of Brown and making out that everything wrong in Britain now is his fault is that it means we are playing their game of pumping up Cameron. The more I hear of Cameron, the worse he seems. The reality is that he stands for more and deeper of what Blair and Brown have imposed on us and got us in this mess. That is why the press are keen on making the criticism of Brown personal, because if they really hit him for what he did wrong politically, long-term when he was Chancellor as well as when PM, they would have to condemn those policies and hence condemn Cameron as well for them.

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  7. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Matthew,

    Agreed on the top point.

    I think, to be honest, I agree with the thrust of what your saying; that the voters need to question their priorities. Though I have to say credit too them for supporting Brown on this one though I maintain he has played up to it a little.

    Agreed that this shouldnt be personal and we shouldnt pump up Cameron who I agree is dreadful. Maybe your right and it would lead to a deeper questioning of things which would be a good thing….

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