Brown and The Sun: How We Get ‘The Leaders We Deserve’

Gordon Brown [wikipedia]

Over the last two days we have had an illustration of how leaders rise and fall by public opinion mediated through powerful pressure groups. The upshot is a process which may be studied to understand how we get ‘the leaders we deserve’

Gordon Brown has been increasingly seen as a leader who has failed to win the approval of the electorate. Within six months the electorate will exercise its democratic right and probably vote for a new government with a different leader. In that sense the voters will appoint the leader they deserve. It might be argued that a private limited company also acquires the leader it deserves through a whole series of decisions by which shares are acquired. At a stretch, the argument could even be extended to hostile takeovers.

Returning to Mr Brown, the current critical incident concerns the death of a serviceman, Guardsman Janes, and a letter written to his mother Jacqui by The Prime Minister. In a short period of time the feelings of the mother were revealed as being amplified by what she regarded as a scribbled and disrespectful note which misspelled her surname. The story (unsurprisingly) became public. The media have enough interest and resources to monitor stories of grieving relatives of military casualties. Mr Brown is cast as a leader going through the motions of sharing a mother’s grief.

Act two: Press interest persists and it becomes public knowledge that Mr Brown is to have a conversation with Mrs Janes.

Act three: the call takes place and is recorded on a Blackberry by a neighbour. The recording finds its way in a rapid timeframe to The Sun newspaper which turns it into a front page exclusive. The interview reveals the hurt of a bereaved mother who also went on to comment on wide issues of political mismanagement of the war. I just heard a snippet which sounded both heart-tugging and at the same time written down and read out.


Not far behind the headlines

Not far behind the headlines can be found the recent stories of Gordon Brown and The Sun newspaper. The declaration by the Sun that the paper was withdrawing its support for Labour at the next election was timed for maximum impact during the Labour Party Conference. That was a month ago. This story has its own ghastly timing after the death of Guardsman Janes.

Leaders We Deserve

Act four: The story gains momentum. An unpopular leader has added to the grief of a mother of a fallen soldier. The Sun has played its rightful role in bringing the story into public view. That’s what happens in a democratic open society. In so doing, the public has extra information regarding the bungling way in which Gordon Brown deals with matters of public concern. But my own suspicion is that The Sun has achieved a short-term win with publicity and sales of the paper. But I also rather think that it will not lead to enough voters switching away from Gordon Brown and his party in six months time. It may even help blunt any future attacks made in the Newspaper against the Government.

Reactions from BBC phone in callers were largely sympathetic both to Mrs Janes and to Gordon Brown, and unsympathetic to The Sun. One thought that occurred to me was how we may also be ensuring that in future the leaders we deserve will rely more on carefully-crafted printed notes under such circumstances. Which would not seem to be a good thing at all.

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2 Responses to Brown and The Sun: How We Get ‘The Leaders We Deserve’

  1. Procrastination King says:

    Dear LWD,

    The Sun should not have used the recording of the conversation between Brown and Janes. The BBC should not have played the recording – as it did on the One O’clock news on R4. It is viral advertising and is more suited to YouTube or Sky3 not the BBC.

    It is simplify not ethical to surreptitiously record telephone conversations. Other Murdock papers have been in trouble for this before, and if were not for timing – one day before 11/11 – then surely there would have been some comments from other political figures. But it is a story of which any criticism of the mother or The Sun would be politically unwise for any leader at any other time as well.

    It is not tasteful or respectful for a newspaper with clearly stated political goals to engage in this general pattern of behavior. Anyone who has suffers grief will understand that the question ‘why us?’ is one that occupies every moment of the day, but for a newspaper to grandstand the views of the grieving in such a way is highly inappropriate and not good for the mental health of the family.

    Listening to Janes, it is very apparent that she is talking to an audience outside of the phone call. The ‘we need more helicopters’ narrative she uses has been directed at the government before and appears to be standard army issue and similarly inappropriately politisied by Richard Dannatt. The ‘if it were your children’ line she uses too was simply rude, aggressive and mis-directed.

    Her arguement, as you would expect from someone grieving, is riddled with fallacy. The grieving should not have their arguments cross examined but neither should they be used for political and economic gain.

    This is a new low for The Sun – for this year at least.

    Stafford Beer makes an interesting point about leadership in a previously unpublished paper entitled ‘The Laws of Anarchy’. His observation (to warm the heart of anarchists everywhere) is that we have a healthy state of anarchy running the country.
    Leadership is distributed between Whitehall, Westminster and the press acts to achieve requisite variety by communicating policy decisions to the public by amplifying what is advantageous to their survival. As a consequence, the public gets the leaders they deserve because of the communications channels they continue to support are channels in which grieving mothers and page three girls co-exist. If the public demanded more rigourous communications from the services they pay for so that they could make better decisions, they they would perhaps not be loosing so many of their loved ones.

    Therefore leadership has little to do with Gordon Brown or anyone for that matter. Its a consumer choice as to what reality one buys, what model of leadership comes with that and what particular leader you will go for.

    As a Procrastination King, I am most disappointed in the leadership exhibited by the citizens of the country themselves. They seem to

    just some thoughts, must get back to procrastinating now,
    yours The Procrastination King

    ps
    Its curious that hand-written notes have been in the Cammeron-Brown arena. (Cameron’s letter to the Czech president). There’s something about authenticity but also something retro about it. It also should be an encouragement to all those with bad handwriting out there – it doesn’t mean that you are thick – but it might be a good idea to stock up on some Symthson Stationary [1] and learn to use a fountian pen [2] in preparation for the Cameron Years

    [1] http://www.smythson.com/SmythsonSite/page/home/default.asp
    [2] http://www.paperpenalia.com/handwriting.html

  2. Tudor says:

    Dear PC
    Thanks
    I will do as you say. I thought you sent another excellent and authetic comment which I can’t find now and has not been posted. If we work off-line I will fix things to meet your request.

    Best wishes

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