How to make Gordon Brown look good: try to make him look bad

I have a horrible feeling inside me that Labour will win the coming general election. The fear has lingered in the back of my head for a while now. Even when Labour were at their lowest, perhaps 18 months ago or thereabouts, the Conservatives’ poll lead was not a great deal to write home about.

Right now the polls say that the Conservatives are roughly eight points ahead of Labour. It’s not all that tight, but you would expect the Conservatives to be doing better given everything that has gone wrong under Labour’s watch.

It’s been clear for a while that voters dislike Labour, but they can’t bring themselves to be convinced by the Conservatives. As a result, the Conservatives are really just a small disaster away from being just a handful of points ahead. And thanks to the corrupt voting system in operation, even if the Conservatives lead by a handful of points, Labour will still win the election.

It’s a prospect that frightens me, because just imagine what Labour would imagine they could get away with if they could still be in government this summer. But I think it is an increasingly real prospect. 2010 is the new 1992.

This is because somehow, despite being one of the most hated people in the country, Gordon Brown always manages to end up on the good side in any story.

I can probably count the number of people that I know like Gordon Brown on the fingers of… one finger. You would think that if you had to conjure up a nothing story that painted a person of your choice in a bad light, the person you would choose is Gordon Brown. Yet, anyone who tries to do it just messes it up.

This bullying story reminds me very strongly of the story a few months back about a “disrespectful” letter that Gordon Brown sent to Jacqui Janes, the mother of a soldier who died while serving in Afghanistan.

The expectation was that everyone would be outraged by Gordon Brown’s callous disregard for British soldiers’ lives. I am sure Mrs Janes envisaged herself being the hero that bashed the final nail into Labour’s coffin, while The Sun was rubbing its hands with glee at the prospect of “wot wonning it” for the Tories again.

In the event, Mrs Janes and The Sun massively overplayed their hand. Instead of being outraged, peopled ended up just feeling sorry for a man who was trying his best, but was hindered by his notoriously poor handwriting and the decreasing quality of his eyesight.

Now, a genuine story about abuse in the workplace has ended up being all about the way a charity is run. Surely Labour cannot believe their luck in this respect. Christine Pratt, co-founder of the National Bullying Helpline, probably dreamt that she was being some kind of modern-day Nelson Mandela when she publicised information about users of the service that was supposedly confidential. Instead, she has faced criticism for this inability to engage brain before sticking the boot in.

You can only imagine that a child-like head rush goes through people who get an opportunity to criticise Gordon Brown like this. It is a shimmering open goal — a massive bullseye target on the world’s biggest bahookie. It is understandable why someone might get a bit too excited at this prospect.

It is a bit like a child riding a roundabout. The kid thinks it would be really great to ride the roundabout as fast as humanly possible. Not only will it be immense fun, but everyone will think you are a hero for managing to go so fast on the roundabout. Instead, what happens is that you end up being sick on yourself, and looking a bit stupid.

There is still a story about Gordon Brown, but only a little bit. The fact is, the revelations about the Prime Minister’s behaviour are not exactly surprising. Mr Brown’s strange behaviour, temper tantrums, and penchant for being violent towards inanimate objects, have been a fairly open secret for a while now.

The macho, bullying culture has been just about the only consistent thread that has run through New Labour since its inception (that is, after all, why Malcolm Tucker has been such a successful character). If these “revelations” about bullying were truly damaging information, the damage would have been done already.

And in fairness, if you were asked to guess which person in the country gets the most angry in his job, you would probably say the Prime Minister, wouldn’t you? It would be a shock if the manager of your local Tesco bawled at his employees on a regular basis. But you’d think anyone working for the political leader of the country would sign up in the full expectation that tensions might be heightened from time to time.

The key reason why this is playing into Gordon Brown’s hands? It is not despite the fact that he’s hated so much. It’s because he’s hated so much. It’s just not cool to kick a man when he’s down. It is, after all, a bit like bullying.


  1. Although I agree overall, I have to take issue with your last comment, what is with the making light of bullying behaviour. If my line manager took me by the lapels, or shoved me aside he would be in terrific trouble, and quite rightly. If a Doctor did it to a nurse, or a firefighter to one of his or her colleagues, the same. Why does anyone get a pass? Is the distant responsibility for the country that much more stressful than the immeadiete responsibility for a life or lives?

  2. Excellent post, even if I don’t share your feeling of dread šŸ˜‰ The only good thing about this story is that it has shoved the Ashley/Cheryl Cole rubbish off the front pages…

  3. Thanks for the comment ODG. I wasn’t trying to make light of bullying behaviour — just that I don’t find it terribly surprising that Number 10 might not be the most tranquil environment to work in.

  4. You are pretty much on target. This was a lucky break, it was bullying behaviour to make vague, allegations that infer a bullying. Mrs Pratt was known by anti bullying organisations as being quite the opposite. It is striking that her website contains one if any other organisation that deal with this.
    Is that a coincidence, I leave you to decide.