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People may listen more to the political GB having heard the personal GB

Posted on 15 February 2010 | 1:02pm

As expected, fairly mixed reviews for the GB interview with Piers Morgan. Some can’t get beyond their loathing of Piers. Others can’t get beyond their negativity about GB. But it is always important to differentiate between media opinion and public opinion. Based on nothing more than instinct, a few conversations and a trawl online, I would say media opinion is somewhere between lukewarm and negative, public opinion between lukewarm and warm.

One of the reasons for the media negativity is frustration at their inability to shape the reaction to an event like this. I made a point of tracking twitter, and some of the message boards, as the interview was going out. In a way, the advance hype, and the media commentary afterwards, don’t really matter. The hype probably helps with ratings, which suits both Piers/ITV and, provided it goes well, GB too. The aftermath commentary is less significant, because the opinions that matter are those of viewers, reacting in real time as the thing is broadcast.

Twitter in particular has changed the balance of power in the relationship between ‘expert’ and ‘people.’ I don’t know how many people were watching last night, nor how many were tweeting as they did so, but when I saw the tweet ‘why the fuck is Piers Morgan trending on twitter?’ I realised the answers were respectively … a lot, and quite a few.

Piers is one of those people who provokes strong reactions anyway, but it is also possible to detect in some of the media commentary today a certain jealousy – how many political pundits would love to get the kind of attention for an interview with GB that Piers managed to get? Answer, all of them.

Piers has taken a bit of a kicking for being so obviously friendly to the PM, but it was in fact very close to his usual interviewing style. It was in both his and Gordon’s interests for a different side to GB to be shown, and that certainly emerged. Gordon is never going to be the touchiest-feeliest politician on the planet, but it does him no harm at all for people to be reminded that beneath the politician’s image is a human being with a backstory made up of the usual mix of good and bad, low and high, tragic and joyous.

I think if there is any lasting impact from the interview it is that in the conversation it has generated, people will at least think that conversation has more than the single ‘GB bad’ dimension so much of the media has been putting over in recent months.

It has helped clear the air a bit for Gordon, at a time people are finally realising the choice is not GB or TB, or GB or perfection, but GB or David Cameron who, under the slightest pressure, is beginning to look a bit flaky.

A few weeks ago, the Tories saw the leaders’ debates, for example, as a guaranteed win-win-win for DC. I’m not sure they are feeling quite so confident now. When it comes to the debates, GB will of course be more on the political than the personal. But the revealing of the more personal last night may mean that some are more willing to listen to the political than they were a few days ago. The mood is changing, in all sorts of ways.

 *** Buy books and raise cash for Labour. Go to http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php. Half of money raised in online sales of The Blair Years, individually signed by AC, goes to the Labour Party

  • Shibley

    All fair points. The criticisms of the interview were highly unimaginative and predictable. I learnt a lot, and I thought that Gordon handled the questions admirably. I am totally uninterested in what the pre-fabricated knee-jerk responses from some of the media are; the MFI of Fleet Street maybe.

  • Adrian Donaldson

    The point re jealousy is well made. There is almost a ‘why am I having to write about this?’ feel to some of the reporting on it. I thought Gordon came over well, much more relaxed and human.

  • Carole Maloney

    He has to be himself. No point trying to pretend he is a great speaker like Obama or a great communicator like Blair or Clinton. He is a difficult and in some ways quirky character and best to be like that. People are definitely starting to see through Cameron

  • J-P

    M any in the media are struggling to come to terms with new media (by definition) – changes in the ways people access information and opinion, and the ways news is formed and shaped.

    This election will be the first (in the UK?) where these issues really matter, and future ones may be fundamentally different.

    Gordon may not be the man for the job, but at least whoever’s advising him has seen the need to address the public directly, and not through the lens of political and economic editorial orthodoxy…

  • Charlie

    However tragic the Browns’ personal circumstances are, the timing of this soft interview can only be interpreted as political manipulation of the worst kind. Well worthy of the spinmeister himself.

    Cynical Electioneering.

  • Jamie McLaughlin

    Saw a different side to GB last night. Most definitely the right man for this country. He may not be a great speaker or great in front of the cameras but he is determined to make Britain a great country and build on Labours Success.

  • Leo

    There are people in this country who believe stoicism to be something a virtue; that it is better to reserve displays of emotion and intimate revelations for a handful of close friends and family who have earned trust over many years. I thought GB was like this, partly because he’s said things to this effect over the years. What a relief to find that he has managed to overcome such characteristics to enable him to talk and weep about his most private issues to faceless strangers the other side of the TV screen. Some might say this was an undignified display unworthy of a man holding such an office but they fail to appreciate the great benefit of ‘clearing the air a bit for Gordon’.

  • Dawn Willis

    The Twitterverse was obsessed with the relationship between Morgan and Brown. Having seen Morgan interviews in the past I didn’t find his interviewing style any more favourable towards the PM.

    People, the press, in particular seemed obessed with the small portion of the entire programme which dealt with the tragedy in Brown family and the, what I thought appeared to be, genuine and natural emotion when discussing something so deeply traumatic. Some argued it was unprofessional and unacceptable to have ‘wept’ on TV, but then I wonder if Brown is usually used to discussing issues which pertain to the running of the country and was simply knocked off guard when these questions arose.
    Who knows? I fear no-one cares. It was, I think, a predicatble response to an interview which had already been critiqued prior to hitting the screens!

  • Marion

    Why is everything related to politics on TV so late? I can never stay awake for Question Time and last night’s programme was the same (no tongue in cheek comment about GB). If the media want to engage the electorate, why isn’t this stuff on at prime time?

  • Patrick James

    I haven’t seen the interview, not having a TV. I’m sure its on the Internet in various forms so I might have a look at it at some stage.

    I think it was the right thing to do, definitely. I’ve read various reactions on the ‘net and I guess that it has gone down pretty well. Obviously the Alf Garnett types that are so common in discussion areas of the ‘net didn’t like it.

    In a choice between the leaders GB is not as media savvy as DC, but I do think people feel GB does have what it takes to be a PM whereas they don’t think that about DC.

    It is amazing how the Conservative party creates one cock up after another. The 54% one is really insulting to people that grow up in the poorer parts of the UK and illustrates how little the Conservative party knows about life in the UK.

  • Scott

    we haven’t seen the real Gordon Brown. The one on TV was a mirage, a spin orientated smoke and mirror image of the man that Gordon Brown and Al Campbell want the voters to see. I hope the voters don’t fall for your treachery.