Friday, 13 November 2009


Well, the Today 8:10 interview is usually the biggie; today it was Gordon himself. I forced myself to suspend my usual Today game, and to actually listen to the man.

Now, no reader of this blog will be surprised to hear that there was ever even the lsightest chance of him receiving a sympathetic hearing. But I tried. Honestly. And I think I can see why he is hated by so many.

He has a distinct style of discussion. The Spectator calls it his "tractor stats" mode, whereby in answer to any question he will reel off a pre-prepared list of statistics purporting to show how wonderful he is. They have a point, but there is more to it than that. Certainly, he does not regard a question as being something for him to answer, but as a prompt to say what he wants to say - that of course is true of any politician, although most do it with a degree of finess and skill that Gordon lacks. With Gordon, though, there is something more. There seem, to me, to be two aspects.

The first is that Gordon speaks with a steady, relentless manner that is redolent with the certainty that what he has to say is really really important and therefore he is justified in speaking over the interviewer and continuing despite their best efforts to ask another question. Evan tried valiantly to query several of the points Gordon made, but was just brushed aside by the steamroller. This has been, I think, an important factor in his success; it means that the utter fallacies that he often utters are not challenged, because it proves simply impossible to get a word in edgeways.

The second concerns the actual content of what he says. If the BBC post the audio of the interview, then do listen to it. Try to parse any one of the sentences that he produces. Sometimes, it rivals Prescott for the degree of convolution that it involves. Any message that he has is utterly drowned in a sea of subclauses, conditions and asides that are clearly intended to provide a fallback if challenged. The overall impression might be "yes", for example, but look into the sentence and there is support for every view on the spectrum stretching from that all the way to "no, absolutely not".

Take as an example one of the opening sentences of the interview. Asked by Evan what his Afghan strategy is, he explains that one might propose just withdrawing back to a fortress Britain, investing in our border defences, and (effectively) leaving Afghanistan to itself. He rejects that, emphatically. And well he might; that is a reasonable decision to take, and leadership is about taking such decisions.

Except that he didn't say that. What he said was more along the lines that one might propose just withdrawing back to a fortress Britain, investing in our border defences, which, he might add, we are, in fact, doing to a significant extent, and (effectively) leaving Afghanistan to itself. So when he rejects that, emphatically, he rejects something that he is actually doing. Why? Clearly because someone might hear the decisive version and think "But we should invest in our border defences" and Gordon wants to leave basis for defending himself on that score, also. This, though, is a tactic that cannot work; it is intrinsically indecisive, and it means that much of what he says sounds like waffle.

And there, I think, it the root of his unpopularity. Listening to their leader, and putting themselves in the position of his interlocutor, people hear someone who won't let anyone else into the conversation, who waffles on without actually saying anything meaningful, and who is obviously refusing to answer the question. That does not come across in the manner of a leader. It comes across as rude.


  1. Ah ha. Yes, everything you're saying is absolutely true - he's always like this. The Legend of Brown being a "man of substance" is maintained because most people simply phasing out whenever he speaks. When he's finished, the listener hasn't got a clue what the Prime Minister said.

    He's very difficult to listen to. As you say, tractor stat mode, long highly qualified sentences, the incessant monotone... I guess there are people out there that think 'boring and incomprehensible' must mean 'very very intelligent' or something.

  2. I had precisely the same observations.

    May I add that IEDs have been used by the Taliban in Afghanistan for many years. It is not a recent change of tactic by the Taliban. Hence the availability of helicopters is so important.

    Why was the ambit of the interview so narrow? Gordon has visited Afghanistan so he can the issues intimately. (This does make the Government's penny-pinching so disgraceful.) His replies were designed to spin out an interview short on content. You probably shared the rest of my thoughts from here.

  3. I didn't listen, I've heard it all before.
    I think if I was the interviewer and the interviewee didn't answer any questions, I'd say somthing like "Clearly you are determined not to answer any of my questions, and thus it is pointless continuing with this interview. Thank you very much for coming along today, Goodbye. And now to our next guest........"

  4. This has been, I think, an important factor in his success; it means that the utter fallacies that he often utters are not challenged, because it proves simply impossible to get a word in edgeways.

    And if Gordon isn't around to steamroller people into accepting what the Government thinks this week, they will enforce their opinions by law. The following amendment has been removed again and again by the Government from recent legislation. Happily the House of Lords has managed to keep it in:

    For the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.

    How can anyone, who believes in free-speech object to that? Apparently, even Peter Tatchell supports this free-speech clause. But not this Government, because, as you say, it is important for them, that anyone who disagrees with them, not be allowed to get a word in edgeways. That's why we've been denied a referendum on Lisbon and a General Election on Gordon.

  5. Well, all good points but of course since I saved the world, which the Tories would have opposed, blog post comments have risen by no less than 63%, meaningless statistics have increased by 127%, and there are 682,000 people not out of work who would have been out of work had I not taken the decisive action that I did at the time and which the Tories opposed - no sorry I need to finish - the point being that it is only positive government action by a non-novice in a concerted way with other countries being involved, subject of course to their own internal decision-making procedures, as I was saying to Mr Obama only yesterday, which can achieve the necessary outcomes that we see today as exemplified by the voters of Glasgow North-East who are clearly expressing their firm endorsement of these policies.

    And if you disagree, I'll write you a letter.

  6. That is such an excellent spoof that part of me believes it to be authentic Brown.