Brown in a Nutshell
Reader Comments (9)

Jacqui Lewis

I think rather than revealing any bad features exclusive to Gordon Brown's character, this incident just reminds us that politicians are fallible and human. I would be very surprised if David Cameron, Nick Clegg, in fact the whole lot of em, haven't said worse before in the heat of the moment and in private. It was Brown's bad luck that he was caught, that's all. I'm not saying that I found it admirable, just that in the hysterical pre-election atmosphere I think it's been blown up out of proportion. I've slammed the phone down after frustrating conversations with colleagues and members of the public and muttered things that weren't particularly nice and that I didn't particularly mean, many times; the only difference really is that other people didn't hear me and my mutterings didn't get broadcast around the whole country.


Good point! Matthew Parris makes the same point pretty tellingly in the Times.

However, in response to that, I'd say: He is the Prime Minister, and this is an election, and these are the rules of the game which he has chosen to play - and he did screw up enormously in that context. No one asked him to be Prime Minister (almost literally).

Also: Parris, while exonerating him for the screw-up, goes on to say that Brown's response to the screw-up was in fact a much, much more enormous screw-up.

Barnabas Palfrey


Alright, you don't like Brown, but the woman really did present very annoying and self-righteously ("I've worked all my life with handicapped kids" / "why can;t you give me more money and bring the deficit down?" etc.etc.) – and I reckon this is probably helped mount her passing comment about East Europeans in Brown's head as 'bigoted,' which it may or may not have been. I haven't heard her talking about what specifically she meant that might not have been just "oh, and I don't like the foreigners" (which is not, or used not to be, an obviously american sentiment).

I hope we decide the election on other grounds. On the other hand, it almost makes me want to vote for the man. Like many people, I suspect, I will be voting largely on the local options and seeming strengths of the local candidates.


Actually, on reflection, and while off doing deeply undignified and frankly Sisyphean abdominal exercises, the following additional points occur to me:

  1. It wasn't due to 'bad luck' that Brown got caught! It was due to stupidity! The man is wearing a wireless mic on his own body - and fails to realise this before making a boner that he has to know will, fairly or not, be an enormous problem for him and his party. And he's been in politics, doing just this kind of thing, nearly his whole adult life! I'd say this tells us something important about the quality of his mind.

  2. He couldn't wait 5 seconds after the encounter before beginning to sling bile at everyone and everything - again, despite the ultimate political cost to him of doing so. Literally, if he'd been able to wait another 2 seconds, he would have been out of range for the 'bigot' comment. I'd say this tells us something important about the quality of his temperament.

  3. I'd further say that, in a rare unscripted moment, he told us something very important about his political views: Anyone in this country who is concerned about immigration or assimilation is simply a bigot. End of story. This is what he really thinks; and when he believes the microphones to be off - correctly or otherwise - this is what he says.

  4. He said, 'It's very nice to see you' and 'Good to see you all' when people were listening; and then, 'It was a disaster' and 'Just ridiculous' and 'She's just a sort of bigoted woman' when he thought people weren't listening; and then 'I misunderstood what she said' when he got caught out saying the second thing! Could anyone, anywhere, really believe the third thing? That he only insulted her because he misunderstood her? Or that he would have discovered his error if he hadn't been busted? And what, actually, does this tell us about his regard for the truth? That it's Clintonian - that the truth is whatever is advantageous for him personally. And why, finally, should we ever believe another word out of the man's mouth?

  5. Simple schadenfreude applies. Basically, he was a stupid dick. And because he was stupid, he got completely busted being a dick. And now he's paying a huge price for it. And what, really, could be more just or gratifying than that?



You all are worrying about that sort of triviality when we've got campaign ads like THIS playing on TV over here?!?

Ahhhh "Alabama Man" still lives....


Hey, it is Alabama. What were you expecting?

And, I'm going to regret coming off so reactionary here, but he's not actually making an unreasonable point:

1) A certain amount of cultural assimilation is critical to a) successful immigration and b) the maintenance of cultural values (which matter) - and a shared language is pretty much the starting point for any of that; and

2) Do you really want people who don't speak English driving?! Or do you want all the road signs in 12 languages? (And would that be better, or worse?)

I think perhaps the world has really moved very far to the left to leave me feeling marooned out here on the right with Cro-Alabama Man.

Jacqui Lewis

Someone writes in the Guardian today that, in 20 years working in TV, they've never known a sound recordist to let someone get into what they might reasonably assume is their private car with a live mike still on their body. Gordon Brown failed to realise he still had a mike on, yes, but he is in the middle of an exhausting and demanding election campaign, and he has a lot of stuff on his mind (like, being the Prime Minister). A sound recordist, a big part of whose job is to mike and unmike people, failed to realise that Brown still had a mike on. I know who I think is more stupid in that picture. And, if I was a conspiracy theorist, I'd be very interested in the fact that the mike was supplied by one of Rupert Murdoch's companies.

I'm not convinced that Brown revealed something "very important about his political views", any more than I reveal something very important every time I open my mouth when I'm feeling grouchy. Nick Clegg seems to have the most reasonable and realistic view of this whole storm in a teacup, and he's supposed to be Gordon Brown's sworn enemy.


Okay, fair enough. In private correspondence, Barney got me to agree that this was all political theatre - and that disagreeing with one single one of Brown's decisions or policies would be a better reason to vote against him than ten of these microphone gaffes.

Much more to the point, I'm really speaking out of turn. I'm a guest in this country, and I don't get a say in who runs it - and, arguably, perhaps I should have a little respect for the person who is chosen to run it.

Jacqui Lewis

Oh, I'm not necessarily saying I like or have great respect for Brown, I just think this whole incident is a rather depressing reminder of the extent to which we in this country seem to be in thrall to image, PR, and slightly misplaced moral outrage. The last one I would just attribute to plain old Britishness, but the first two, ironically enough, I think were very much ushered in by Blair; although I think the media should take some blame for whipping up these non-stories into huge issues for the sake of shifting papers.

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