For a senior politician to be filmed ‘meeting the people’ is a feat of great courage that is fraught on all sides with danger. The voter may hate your guts, may egg you, may tell you things you don’t want to hear. And you know what? If you’re a smart politician you smile, listen, say your platitudes, maybe even argue in a civilised and sensible, statesmanlike manner.
You then walk away, talk to someone else, smile alot and maybe kiss a baby.
A piece of free advice for all politicians in the UK….what you don’t do is, whilst still on a live mike, call the person who you were filmed being nice to a bigot. Especially if the person concerned is a female old age pensioner who’s only saying what lots of folks in the UK may feel.
I genuinely feel sorry for Gordon Brown on a personal level – I hate to see anyone drop themselves in the shit. He’s not the guy for this sort of ‘one on one’ interview with the voter, particularly when it’s not at all certain what the voter concerned is going to say. But on a political level – come on, people, this is Political Campaigning 101. Whatever you may think in private, you don’t say it in public.
I’m gobsmacked at some of the nonsense and bollocks I’ve heard uttered by people from the Labour Party today – apparently Mrs Duffy is a plant, the whole thing’s a Murdoch Media setup, it’s a conspiracy to embarrass the PM, it was Nick Clegg’s fault, etc. The facts are quite simple:
- Mrs Duffy made some comments about immigration to the UK that didn’t fit the NuLab policy sheet.
- Mr Brown debated the point slightly, and walked away in a dignified manner. All good, clean, politics.
- Mr Brown neglects to take the mike from Sky News off.
- He then shows clear annoyance at whoever it was in his entourage who set up the conversation.
- And finally calls Mrs Duffy a bigot.
- And realising what he’s done apologises profusely to Mrs Duffy and the Labour Party.
Now…to all the NuLab people I know who I’ve annoyed this evening – and who probably aren’t reading this anyway… 🙂 – Mrs Duffy’s comments seemed totally fair, Brown’s ‘on camera’ reaction reasoned and sensible, his off camera reaction totally out of order and poorly judged, reinforcing the numerous stories we keep hearing about the Prime Minister’s intolerance.
It was his press officer’s job to keep an eye on the mike and media presence. It was Brown’s job to keep his mouth shut until he knew he was ‘off air’. Unless the press officer was working for Murdoch, the Tories or the Lib Dems, and the Prime Minister was brainwashed to open mouth before engaging brain, the only people here to blame are the Press Officer and the PM. The reporter was doing his job. Sky was doing it’s job – they played hardball and took advantage of the situation to get a ‘scoop’, but that’s what the media does. the media are no-one’s friends but their own.
Labour were made to look hypocritical incompetents – get used to it, folks, and stop whining like spoilt children.
So, in the broader picture, what does this debacle tell us about Labour and their leadership?
- They don’t like hearing what the voters say when the voter doesn’t toe the party line. Sounds familiar? It should do. Those of us who’ve been in debates with New Labour over recent years have come to know that NuLab is tolerant whilst you toe the line. There is a strong hint of dishonesty and hypocrisy here.
- The Prime Minister really misjudged the situation here– there was a camera crew around when the comment was made, let alone a live lapel mike. The PM made an error, but this is not a politician on his first election; this is an experienced political leader who wishes to be Prime Minister of the UK. He also exhibited petulance and bad temper – and not for the first time. I would expect better judgement from Mr Brown and also greater competence from those around him.
- There was clear contempt for the voter concerned – and by extension all of us. This current election is by no means an open and shut ‘shoe-in’ for any party. It’s there to be lost by the parties, and in the last week the leaders of all three major parties have worked hard to put their foot in it in one way or another. But this must be the biggest cock up yet.
The media is very much the fourth major party in the 2010 general election; it’s loyalties are split across the parties, as they always are, but this time around everything that happens gets Tweeted and blogged as quickly as it happens. Our political leaders seem to be having difficulties dealing with this – and the winner will be the one who screws up least.