in Politics

Brown’s belated apology

I just do not understand why it has taken so long.

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.

Leave a Reply

  1. He also now looks stupid for refusing to say sorry in the first place, and then saying it now. If it was right for him to apologise (and I think it was, even if doing so whilst making clear he had nothing to do with it), he should have done it immediately.

    Having said that, I don’t understand why u-turns are always seen as negative. Surely it should be a good thing if a politician is capable of realising a mistake and acting to put it right, rather than continuing with the wrong course of action?

    Gordon has got what I can only term charisn’tma. Whether that qualifies as a superpower or not, I’m less sure…

  2. Amongst the many reasons I dropped my ambition to be an MP (along with a drubbing at the hands of a truly charismatic politician in 2001) is that I realised I actually wouldn’t be very good at it. I can’t think of any other career where sticking to a path when you realise it is the wrong one is actually seen as a strength.

    I think U-turns are seen as wrong because it suggests you lack the courage of your convictions. To update the language, it’s about ‘vision’ and ‘mission’. A party will rarely change it’s overall vision for the type of country they want to create, party politics would be fairly pointless if they did because you need to have some bedrock of principle for a party to function.

    However, they might change their mission, the way they think they can best get there. Like you, I don’t see a problem with that; times change, technology advances and priorities adapt.