Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Gaffer

A number of points flow from yesterday's characteristic Prime Ministerial storm in a tea cup. He met Gillian Duffy, a sort of straight talking northern working class woman, but as soon as Gordon Brown was back within the car he was back into his world of political fixing and presentation. Thus something that actually went reasonably well for him became "a disaster" once cocooned in his car and this disaster was "Sue's fault" that should never have happened. The Thick of It on BBC TV has shown this internal mentality of the hothouse political world, where all is appearance on the news and all is measured, and where the team eats itself in a series of mutual recriminations. Also, like in The Thick of It, a spiral of its own far worse dynamic then takes place.

So he appears on the radio when the tape is played, and he makes an excuse that he didn't have time to answer Mrs Duffy. He indeed had plenty of time to answer her, and did. He makes the point about private conversation. He says sorry to her among all the deflecting talk away from him as his own head is in his hand. Then he bolts out of the room, as the first 'disaster' that would not have been becomes an actual disaster of apparent duplicity.

I don't think he did attack her: what he did was classify her and thus stereotype her. He classified her as an ex-Labour voter who has a racist outlook by easily slipping into talk of immigrants and then he sees her as a lost core Labour voter that can be attracted to the BNP. She's probably not so at all. No one has explained that the immigrant is both a labour supply and a market, and that they contributed to the boom; they were a strain on resources but that, in the movements within the European Union, many have gone back, just as Britons come and go across Europe. There is a problem of outside EU immigration into the shadows, which undermines the minimum wage, of people who need either to become Europeans or to leave.

Calling her a bigoted woman was a classification; nevertheless as part of the spiral and dynamic, he rings an apology and then goes to her house to see her for longer than many a head of state. He then comes out and grins his own report on his own gushing apology. So it looks worse and worse.

In the end, though it looks pretty awful it amounts to very little - other than he is a grumpy workaholic who doesn't get out beyond his own world of political fixing and presentation. The captain is very used to his own ship, and has his own world inside and little-praised careerists around him that he can blame, and he grips the steering wheel, but seems to have forgotten what the sea is like.

Does it matter? Not really. If he doesn't shine in what should be his debate on Thursday, that will matter. In order to shine, he might descend into a world of statistics and rattling off claims in the manner he did at the Iraq Inquiry (which came undone). The others may be more effective. They ought, however, to leave off referring to his little local difficulty today. If he, however, criticises Nick Clegg's tendency to use words like "nutters" and "bilge", then Nick Clegg can say he uses them in public. I watched Clegg take questions from students at Oxford Brookes University and I thought he had command over some rather good questions. I noticed that beyond that, Clegg and Cameron somewhat disappeared today, and we know why. This is a General Election of mainly three one and a half hour examinations. You pass them and you succeed. It's as if the coursework, including incidents in Rochdale, hardly matter.

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