As someone on the BBC website said regarding the ‘Bigoted woman’ comment:
“My guess is that 9 out of 10 politicians say things like Mr Brown said once they believe they no longer on air.
We say that we want politicians to be more honest and say what they really believe, but they all know that if they did so, they would never win an election. Politicians are immersed in politics and have a much deeper understanding than the average member of the public, and almost all must be frustrated on occasions, by the naivety of the some members of the public, especially those that rely on the “red top” press for their information.”
It was an embarassing outburst but I think all of the leaders will have said something unpleasant about people they have met in this campaign. The only difference is that they have not been caught.
Can I ask why people are surprised about a politician saying one thing about someone then another the next minute? A Politician, two faced? Fancy that! Next you will be telling me the world is spherical… Hardly news really is it? It comes with the job, and is sometimes, quite frankly necessary. Do you expect Gordon Brown or David Cameron or Nick Clegg to say what they really think next time they meet an Iranian leader or the head of some banana republic with no human rights? No, of course not. They all have to act smooth and cozy up to people, pretending they like them when in reality they dislike and disdain them, and this almost certainly applies to the public as much as other leaders.
As any experienced political canvasser will tell you, you often encounter people on the doorstep who are, quite frankly, idiots. But no political canvasser ever tells them. In fact, how often does a canvasser stand and talk to someone, feigning to agree or listen to them despite long before thinking that they know absolutely nothing. I would wager, more often than they care to admit.
Gordon Brown is almost certainly no different to Clegg and Cameron in that regard. The only difference is, he got caught doing it.
May I ask how often do some of these very journalists who are now criticising Brown write about the general public in a way that is condescending and demeaning whether talking about reality tv shows, football crowds or voter apathy? I very rarely see these people apologising for things they say, yet Brown does and is still jumped on for it.
To these people who say that Brown can’t stand people who have a different opinion to himself can I ask: who genuinely doesn’t resent other people having different opinions to them? We all do, even if only a little bit. It’s a perfectly human reaction. The difference with Brown is, he gets more emotional about it than other people do, and, again, he got caught. If Gordon Brown could not work or cope with people of a different opinion to himself, I don’t think he would have got anywhere in politics or anywhere else for that matter.
Hence I believe it was the outburst of a tired, man who is low on confidence and who was frustrated at not being able to talk to someone as he wanted to and who thought he would look bad as a result. It does not justify what he said about the lady at all, and he absolutely should have apologised for it, but it can explain it.
Cameron and Clegg are naturally more appealing and better at dealing with ordinary members of the public in a way that Gordon Brown is not. I think Gordon knows he is not good at that sort of thing and so I think that is why his campaign previously was focused on him in more controlled circumstances. I think the debates have shown he can win arguments, but he struggles to win debates, because he is not necessarily the warmest or most congenial of people. I think when he is with people of a different opinion, he is not good at off the cuff debates and in discussions with people. He is better with facts and figures in hand persuading people by the force of argument and by substance. Cameron and Clegg win hands down on charisma and people skills. But being congenial and good with people is not the only aspect to being a good leader.
I think he acted the way he did because it was a situation which he is not comfortable in and which he as a result felt nervous about. He then, for whatever reason, assume dit had gone badly because he knows it is not his strength. Hence where the outburst came from.
To use an example from the world of sport, Sir Alex Ferguson (and Brian Clough) both have been reported as having severe problems in expressing their opinions and acting in haste when angry. They are, however, two of the most successful managers in history. To use the example of history Winston Churchill had terrible anger problems, disagreed with people left right and centre and hated people who disagreed with him. He is also widely reputed to have treated his staff terribly. He was also naturally shy, stammered, had a lisp and did, on occasion, fall out with members of the public. Adolf Hitler bought his staff flowers and cake and was regarded as a kindly boss. He was one of the most brilliant speakers the world has ever seen and was beloved by virtually all who came across him to the extent that many of his closest aides continued to worship him after his death and died for him.
That is what I am trying to highlight. There is more to a leader than how they are with the public and with their staff. There is their principles, their judgement and their politics and that is what I hope people will judge them on.
By Sean Woodcock