Gordon Brown’s gaffe
There are few spaces in the world, visual or aural, that are now free from prying eyes and ears, most of them electronic.
It’s more dystopian than the world poor old Winston Smith encountered in George Orwell’s 1984.
Gordon Brown found that out to his cost yesterday. The video above give the full narrative of the toe-curling episide with pensioner Gillian Duffy in Rochdale.
He joins a host of Irish politicians who have similarly gaffed, wittingly and unwittingly, on radio and television.
Irish Tweeters came up with some great memory-jogging examples this morning. One was Paddy Donegan’s brutish description of then president Cearbhall Ó Dalaigh as a”thundering disgrace”, an insult that forced the president to resign.
Brian Lenihan’s ‘mature recollection’ was another that featured.
As did the off-mike use of choice language. There was John Bruton’s complaint to a cowed radio report that he was sick of answering questions about the “fxxxing peace process”. Brian Cowen chose the exact same word from the lexicon when describing the National Consumer Agency, in an aside to Mary Coughlan in the Dáil. His words were picked up by a nearby live mike.
But the ones that most people remember are the two major gaffes made by Pee Flynn, in the presidential election of 1990, and on the Late Late Show in the mid 1990s. The first was his defence of his exorbitant salary, which he justified on the basis that it’s very expensive to run three houses with three sets of staff.
And then, to compound his troubles, he made an ill-thought remark about developer Tom Gilmartin, to the effect that he was not worried and that Gilmartin was ill. Of course, Gilmartin was looking at television in London. It prompted him to make a complaint to the Planning Tribunal.
The 1990 remark was almost worse, a leading question intended to undermine Mary Robinson and her family.
Elsewhere, Prince Charles got caught out by a nearby mike describing the BBCs Nicholas Withcell as a horrible man. Similarly, George W Bush described one reporter in a media scrum as a “first degree ass****”, unaware that his juicy little description was being picked up.
Having gone through the entirety of the video at the top, it’s evident that it is cringy and carcrash stuff.
OK Brown is cranky that his handlers didn’t keep her away. But the Bigot-gate stuff isn’t as bad as it seems – especially when you consider the things we all say when we’re having private conversations.
The problem is that her comments weren’t all that inflammatory… and (unfortunately) reflects public sentiment in Britain at the moment. There was some prejudice in what she said. But it certainly wasn’t bigoted.
The real damage was done by her horrified reaction to the remarks.
There’s no doubt that Brown is damaged by this. I think it was big of him to go and apologise and spend an hour with her. I don’t exactly know why but I felt a great deal of sympathy for him after watching it all, maybe because he’s so besieged and I for one get no pleasure from seeing people lose out or fail.
Actually, political afficiando (well, ok, anorak) Naoise Nunn has a link to that infamous Padraig Flynn Late Late appearance on his Twitter site (find the twitter site here or the Late Late show clip here).
Incidentally, talking of Naoise Nunn, Leviathan will be hosting a British general election special on election night next week. It will be in the Berkeley Court in Dublin on Thursday. Tickets from its site and other outlets (€17.50 including booking fees).