Bush Brown Mills & Boon


Tony Blair was said to have had an unhealthily close relationship with President Bush. The new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, meets George Bush this weekend. But are we at risk of making sense of their first encounter in terms better suited to romantic fiction?

The widespread view over here is that Tony Blair became too much in thrall to George Bush. The ‘poodle’ metaphor might have become clichéd, but it has outlasted other more nuanced terms. Maybe there will be a historical revision, but for the moment the story has been established, and the ending settled in the public’s recollections of both leaders and their relationship.

Gordon Brown became Prime Minister after a long and bitter succession battle. Maybe, again, the official line will soften the accepted version of the story. The official line is that the two men had a long-standing friendship which carried them through the long period of Blair’s dominance as Prime Minister, and Brown’s not inconsiderable political influence as a highly effective Chancellor of the Exchequer. In this version, any discussions between them did not amount to a deal that Brown would not complete with Blair for the top job after the sudden death of Labour’s leader John Smith. Blair would smooth the way for Gordon’s succession, but not with a time-scale attached to the arrangement, which as I have just said, was not in any way a deal.

In the version presented through the media, there was a deal, and in time Brown became increasingly convinced that he had been conned, and would not be given Blair’s support in a future leadership contest. The Blair/Brown relationship was to become as dark as the Blair/Bush one was to burgeon into an idyllic friendship of sweetness and light.

That was then

Gordon eventually takes over and ‘sends out signals that changes are on the way. It’s tricky because he can’t change too much of the things he was assumed to be partly res;onsible for. He might be accused of being Blair’s poodle! would be then accused of heavily involvement in under Tony. But it is thought that he will meet those two Kiplingesque impostors of threat and opportunity . over Iraq, and thus inevitably the Anglo-American relationship

Now Gordon journeys to Camp David to meet Blair’s old buddie. The meeting has attracted a little attention in the UK political circles, less so in America. The White House press machine seems to have reached an embattled compromise with the media in its standardized delivery of standardized news stories. The travelling members of the Washington Press Corp dutifully attends at Camp David and reports on the information provided. The item will slot into the back end of news reports in its rightful place after the breaking news of personalised tragedies, and the doings of celebrities from the overlapping celebrity worlds of sport, entertainment, and violent crime. No big deal. Gordon gets his allotted coverage, roughly that allocated to the meetings of the last and next international visitors with the President.

Does it the meeting matter?
Interested journalists seem to think it does.

Maybe this is so, although I am inclined to think the idea is too close to that romantic tale of a first encounter, and of the critical importance of first impressions. A misunderstanding leads to many a twist and turn before the two principal characters find their true relationship. Its too close to Mills & Boon, as we like to say.

First impressions are important, not least in the world of business. Rickards and Clark cited several examples of the importance attributed by business leaders to first impressions. It’s up there with other assumptions, such as the idea that trust, once lost, is never regained. That’s a more deterministic version of the ‘first impression’ assumption.

Here we have a chance to evaluate these notions in a well-documented (if well-packaged) form, as well as the suggestion that a new leader can expect a honeymoon period. In Gordon’s case, this is measured by the so-called Brown Bounce in opinion polls.

4 Responses to Bush Brown Mills & Boon

  1. Tudor,

    Remember your Admiral Boyce? He was shocked at the selfishness he found outside the military — so he presumably had to modify his way of evaluating people. At various times in my life I have been involved in public debate on economics, tax, foreign affairs etc, and inevitably there need to be some modifications in the way other people are evaluated. For example, discussing monetary policy is much for statistically orientated and theoretical than discussing Russian foreign policy; and the emotions that people bring into play are somewhat different. Like Boyce, Brown has moved to a new field — from economics and domestic politics to international political affairs. He will need to adjust a radar at touch to get the first meeting nuances right. The best advice that he could be given is: do not put too much trust in first impressions — particularly when you are operating in a new field.


  2. Tudor says:

    Thanks Jeff,

    This ‘first impressions’ point is interesting. I rather like the caution that first impressions are dangerious and driven by deep sets of personal needs and beliefs. I was reding this weekend about a Uiversity which had been trying to apppoint a celebrated scientist to its faculty, many years ago. Gauss was shotlisted but then (alledgedly) blackballed by a Professor on grounds that seemed to be about his physical apperance.

    There again, a high, very high proportion of arranged marriages stay together, far more than the results in societies that put high store on ‘Mills & Boon’ love at first sight arrangments. Then there’s the first impressions of a piece of art or other consumables …

    Just to make it more complex, I think someone who is over-cautious about first impressions may miss out a lot, and develop an armour of emotional caution …

    How about saying that caution is particularly to be execrcises in specific circumstances – business meetings and summit conferences come to mind.

    I think I’ll make ‘first impressions’ a tagline.

  3. Tudor says:

    Excuse speling of above replu. More haste more bleed ing mistakes

  4. Tudor,

    Mills & Boon may be of some additional help here. You may remember when you were a young man, travelling the world and meeting women from exotic cultures. Were your first impressions more likely to be relaible in the case of the English women you met in your local pub; or were they more likely to be reliable when you met a new girl wearing strange clothes and babbling in another language?


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