One of my recurrent themes is ‘being human’. For some reason politicians often seem to equate signs of humanity as signs of weakness. So when the Prime Minister’s staff were planning smear campaigns it took him days to do what any decent human being would do, and say sorry.
As a total aside I did a little spot on engagement for the Improvement and Development Agency in which I suggested the Muppet-Superman continuum on which politicians are judged (the description comes in at 2:05):
This video is also available on YouTube.
This whole episode reminded me of Margaret Thatcher’s household budgeting analogy, and for some reason I couldn’t help but bring it down to a household level. If your children had accidentally damaged your neighbour’s property, say a football through a window, the first thing you would do is march them round, apologise and make the child apologise and offer to make amends.
So it wasn’t actually that much of a surprise to come across Matthew Parris’ column in today’s Times. Her approach, when an aide had offended a member of the public, was to demand an apology immediately. Obviously, politics played their part, but behind it is a realisation that sometimes saying sorry is both appropriate and necessary.
Unfortunately it’s not something the Prime Minister has worked out and he, instead, behaves like a petulant child refusing to accept that something is very wrong in his government. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I find myself wishing we had Blair back.
And this is where the Muppet-Superman continuum comes in. Brown has spent years portraying himself as the ‘Iron Chancellor’, a son of the manse, straightforward and honest. A sort of super politician who would provide competent, unshowy, government with principle after the years of Blair/Campbell spin.
And instead we have a muppet, a Prime Minister who sort of co-ordinates the show, but without the hilarity and, most definitely, without Kermit’s charm.