Archives » Gordon Brown

BBC Bias

I see Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps has been sniping at the BBC.

Well, sniping isn’t quite the word. Threatening would be nearer the mark.

If you recall before the last General Election I predicted this sort of thing would happen if the Tories were to win office. The only surprise is it’s taken this long for them to get round to it. Too busy demonising the unemployed and telling lies about the mess they inherited (the UK economy was growing in May 2010 when they took over. They immediately set that into spectacular reverse.)

In any case what have they to complain about? I rarely hear much criticism of the government or its policies on the BBC news. It might not be 100% suppportive. But it’s not supposed to be.

I read over the weekend that during the last government Gordon Brown was seen on the BBC twice as much as David Cameron – aka Mr Irresponsible. At the moment it’s four appearances for Cameron against every one for Ed Miliband. As I remember a similar ratio applied during John Major’s time as PM. (Now there’s the return of the undead.)

Whenever there’s a Tory government the letters BBC might as well stand for Bend over Backwards to the Conservatives.

Lo! It Has Come To Pass

And guess what?

We have an unelected Prime Minister.

(Well, I didn’t vote for him.

Only 33,973 people actually did.)

There has been an extremely unpleasant sub-text to the criticism Gordon Brown has suffered ever since taking over at No 10 – and even before that. He has been subjected to torrents of intolerant abuse; mainly, perhaps, because he is Scottish. We shall need to see what the future holds but at least until England has some sort of constitutional arrangement similar to those holding in the rest of the UK it may be that no Scot nor Welshman may ever be PM again.

I thought nothing became Gordon Brown so much as his leave-taking of office which was dignified, restrained and a rebuke to those who have characterised him so badly, but did play a bit too much on sentimentality.

And so we have a coalition government. I can only hope that the Lib Dems will be able to restrain the excesses the Tories would undoubtedly have inflicted had they governed alone.

But this is what government should be like. It hasn’t done Germany any harm. With coalitions we would almost certainly have had neither the Iraq War nor the Poll Tax. I also don’t think electoral reform would be in the offing without it.

The posturing of some Labour MPs unwilling to countenance a deal with the Lib Dems or, still less, PR was purely for party advantage reasons. They reckon Labour would some day be back in power on its own and to hell with the country and the depredations a Tory government might inflict on it in the meantime. (A similar consideration applies to those Tories opposed, but in the reverse sense.)

P R – even the minimum requirement of the Alternative Vote – is still not here, though. I wouldn’t put it past the Tories to find some way of sabotaging the proposed referendum. There will still be Labour MPs voting against it too.

Echoes and Premonitions

I’€™m not sure I want to wake up on Friday morning. I have this terrible feeling that Mr Irresponsible will win an outright majority.

It’€™s not that I’€™m in favour of Labour, though. Because of the nature of Labour in Scotland, I couldn’€™t bring myself to vote for them. But for all their drawbacks in the UK sense (Iraq, ID cards, other infringements of personal liberties, failure to bring the bankers to heel, not scrapping public private partnerships, intense relaxation about people being filthy rich) they are still better than the Tories. To take one example of their success, the NHS is immeasurably better than it was 13 years ago.

The reason that I dread a Mr Irresponsible premiership – more accurately I fear a George Osborne chancellorship -€“ is experience. The Tories have a track record. They seem to take a visceral delight in the cutting of public expenditure. But it’€™s all right for Cameron and Osborne; they’€™re well off and won’€™t be affected. (In fact, due to their inheritance tax plans, they’€™ll be even more quids in if their parents snuff it.)

It’€™s other people who will suffer, people who can least afford cuts, either in their benefits, their pensions or their jobs.

I know the other main parties are also saying they would make cuts but they are more likely to make efforts to mitigate the worst effects.

And don’€™t tell me the Tories are the party of low taxation. I well remember them during the 1979 election campaign denying claims that their plans would require the rate of VAT to be doubled. In their first budget after the election they raised VAT from 8 to 15%! (In subsequent Parliaments they raised it further to 17.5%.) VAT is a tax which hits most those who can least afford it.

I also fear for the BBC. It’€™s a great British institution which happens to be tremendously good at what it does. I would go so far as to say at everything it does. We would all miss it when it’€™s gone. I know we all have to pay for it almost willy-nilly but it is amazingly cheap at the price. The Tories are in Rupert Murdoch’€™s back pocket (as well as Lord Ashcroft’€™s) and he would like nothing better than to see the BBC dismantled or at least curtailed. Sky would not be able to give us such sterling service. It never could, because Murdoch is only seeking to turn a profit. I would rather never watch TV again than contribute to his coffers.

I know my vote is not going to make a difference. My sitting MP (Gordon Brown) has a huge majority and I can’€™t see it being overthrown. Besides when was the last time you heard that the incumbent PM actually lost his (or her) seat?

I genuinely don’t know for whom I’€™m going to vote; only that I will. Too many people fought too long and too hard for my right to do so for me not to honour them. But it will not be Tory or Labour.

If Mr Irresponsible should win on Thursday then, in the words of a prominent 1980s politician, I warn you not to be old, I warn you not to be ill, I warn you not to be poor.

The trouble is that, down the line, you (and I) are likely to be at least two of those things, if not all three.

Unelected?

No British voter elects a Prime Minister. Neither do we elect a government.

All we vote for – all we ever vote for – in UK General Elections is a representative, a single member of Parliament.

I have voted in nine General Elections and have yet to find a question on the ballot paper asking me who(m) do I wish to be Prime Minister – or indeed whom I wish to be in government.

The only person who can be said to “vote” for the Prime Minister is the monarch – at present the Queen – who invites an MP to form a government (albeit usually on advice from the outgoing PM.) This is true whether that invited MP can “command” a majority in the House of Commons or not. It is Parliament (a word, by the way, derived from French and meaning, almost literally, talking shop) which decides whether a government exists or not; as only the House of Commons can vote a government down.

In this regard I find the complaints that Gordon Brown was an unelected PM to be strange, even ignorant – if not deliberately mischievous. He was as elected – or unelected – as Tony Blair, John Major, Margaret Thatcher, James Callaghan, Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, Alec Douglas Home, Harold MacMillan etc. etc. before him.

Every Member of Parliament has been elected, except, in days past, for the Speaker, whom convention required to be unopposed – and he or she could not become PM. UKIP and others are, I believe standing against John Bercow on May 6th. Michael Martin had some opposition too last time as I recall.

In the 2005 General Election Gordon Brown’s name certainly appeared on my ballot paper. To call him unelected was a distortion of the truth, at best. It subsumes into the term only those closed electorates which may choose a political party’s leader. Not being a member of any of them I was not consulted when those parties made their respective choices so in that respect, but in that respect alone, they were/are all unelected. As has been every Prime Minister in my – and anybody else’s – lifetime.

Still, if Mr Irresponsible or even that inoffensive Mr Clegg become PM after next Thursday I may take some delight in dubbing them unelected.

A Tale In The Sting

With the release of a tape of a telephone conversation between Jacqui (sic) Janes and Gordon Brown it has become blindingly obvious that the hoo-hah surrounding his letter of condolence has been entirely confected; part of a sting operation against the Prime Minister almost certainly constructed for narrow (party) political purposes.

I do not buy for a single moment the notion that this is all about one woman’s grief or indeed supporting the troops in Afghanistan. It is solely about providing a bad press for the Prme Minister.

Not the least of the disturbing aspects of this affair is the revelation of the contents of the telephone call. Was Gordon Brown informed he was being taped? If not; is it not an offence to record someone over the phone without informing them that it is being done? This makes Ms Janes a law breaker and the Sun an accessory at the very least. (May we look forward to a prosecution?)

Moreover, due to these dubious circumstances – after all, which citizen, without ulterior motive or inducement, has the necessary recording equipment readily at hand, just in case? – I am inevitably led to the suspicion that Ms Janes may be rewarded financially for such deceit. [For the record: this is a suspicion that I would be delighted to be proven unfounded.]

However, I now have no sympathy whatever for Ms Janes.

Quite apart from Gordon Brown’s poor vision – which may make writing difficult for him and hence, also, his script difficult to read (and many people, myself included, have appalling handwriting) – how can Ms Janes object to his spelling when she, or her parents, cannot even spell her own name? The traditional form is Jackie, not Jacqui.

She not only spurned his initial letter – which he did not have to write; when, for whatever reason, he made another gesture of condolence by telephoning her, she was ungracious enough to reject this too.

It sounds very much like she is flailing around desperately trying to blame anyone for her son’s death.

Now (this is not to disparage the Armed Forces and it is especially galling to be writing this on Armistice Day) but Britain does not have a conscript army. Her son had to volunteer. Squaddies know the risks when they enlist. And unfortunately, if necessary, the duty they sign up for is to die. So to put it brutally, the only person to blame for his death is himself.

But perhaps she feels she could have stopped her son joining up and wishes now that she had, and so herself feels guilty for not doing so.

Whatever the truth of all this, the Sun’s complicity in her actions is despicable. She should have been left by them to grieve in peace; not driven to higher heights of denial and torment.

If the Sun’s intention was to make people less likely to have sympathy for the Prime Minister then in my case it has backfired spectacularly. It’s almost enough to make me consider voting for Gordon Brown. (And, unlike most people, I am actually in a position to do so.)

The man has done the decent thing twice over; and been pilloried for it.

He would have been damned if he hadn’t and he was damned that he did.

So, how likely is he in the future to write letters to the relatives of dead soldiers?

Wisely, David Cameron steered clear of this at PMQs today.

A Matter Of Respect

Jacqui Janes, mother of a British soldier killed in Afghanistan, has been in the news because a letter she received from Gordon Brown apparently misspelled her dead son’s name and, she is quoted as saying, was, “hastily scrawled,” forbye.

Just one thought. Who does she think she is?

She received a letter of condolence from the Prime Minister. Hand written, no less.

I appreciate that in her grief she may not have been in an accommodating frame of mind. But…

The letter wasn’t delegated to a minion. It wasn’t typed or word processed.

Does she imagine for a moment that Lloyd George or Winston Churchill personally wrote a letter of condolence to every member of the armed forces killed on their watches? I very much doubt Margaret Thatcher did so for each soldier, sailor or airman killed in the Falklands.

So who exactly is disrespecting whom? Whatever anyone thinks of Gordon Brown as PM the man is in an exacting job with many demands on his time.

If I had received such a letter I’d be grateful that he’d taken time from his schedule to even think to do so. The mere fact he wrote it shows he was thinking about her loss.

Btw: If I had a penny for every time my name had been misspelled – or mispronounced – I would be a very rich man indeed. I’m sure the same could be said for Ms Janes.

I almost feel like enjoining her to grow up.

It is desperately sad that her personal tragedy has been diminished by a sordid descent into PM bashing.

As it is, I cannot escape the notion that she has been used. And that is the real disgrace. A gross disrespect to her son by those who used her, much more so than a mere misspelling of his name.

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