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Breaking News – GB wins award, Lib Dems face all ways

Posted on 23 September 2009 | 9:09am

If you get out a microscope, and scour the British papers today, paying very close attention to a small number of very small articles, you might be able to discover that Gordon Brown won an award as World Statesman of the Year in advance of the United Nations General Assembly.

Take the miscroscope down to the body of the copy and you might be able to enjoy the words of former American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger about the ‘vision and dedication’ GB showed in handling the global financial crisis a year ago. ‘His leadership has been essential to our ability to overcome the moment of danger,’ he said.

Even the presence of an A list celeb like Bono at the awards could not elevate the presentation to anywhere near the coverage and praise for Victoria Beckham’s offerings at London Fashion Week.

Now let’s just ask a couple of questions. If David Cameron had won such an award, let’s say for his work in raising awareness on important global issues like … oh, I don’t know, let’s just pretend he has … do you think we might have heard a little more about it?

Or more likely, let’s imagine the award had gone to Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy or Angela Merkel, how might the newsreader tag this news on to an item about the Attorney General’s home help…. ‘As if to make matters worse for the beleaguered Prime Minister, despite his much-vaunted claims to have led the world out of the economic crisis, a major award for statesmanship went not to Brown but to President Sarkozy … Nick, how disappointed will Downing Street be that this award went to the French President?’

When the only news the media will report is what they deem to be bad news for GB and the government, they cannot begin to claim they are fulfilling their responsibilities in a democracy. It would also be quite nice to read a piece by one of these political and economic experts explaining how the world economy might have panned out had people followed Cameron’s suggestions this time last year.

Another example … the Tories’ recent scam pretending that documents published at the time of the Budget contained information which the government had tried to conceal. Journalists fell over themselves in falling for the spin, but once it was clear that spin was all that it was, the story went away. Had that been about Labour under Neil Kinnock, John Smith, TB or GB, it would still be leading the news.

The Liberal Democrats are likely to get their day leading one or two bulletins today, as leader Nick Clegg makes his main speech to the conference. It is hard to decide whether he will consider the week to have gone well. He has done quite well on the profile front, made one or two interesting policy noises, but the general impression of the past few days has been one of lack of clarity about political strategy and policy direction, and lack of basic political groundwork. Also, this might be seen as the week when the Party itself started to chip away at the reputation enjoyed by Treasury spokesman Vince Cable.

You hear talk fairly often among Libs about Cable’s high-handedness and his belief that he is always right. In truth he talks some sense, and quite a lot of nonsense, and what has emerged this week is that is not just my view, but a view shared by his colleagues.

So all a bit of a mess really. Or is it? I do not imagine this was deliberate but in a way what Clegg’s mismanagement of the week has allowed is for Lib Dems to carry on pretending to be one thing in one place, another thing in another. It has defined their approach to campaigning for years and I have seen little this week to suggest it might change in favour of a clear and principled strategy.

  • Sarah Freestone

    The Liberal Democrats are right to be keeping open a lot of policy options because they could end up holding the balance of power. My view is that the country does not want Brown or Cameron, but they know they can’t get Clegg, so a coalition of some sort is likely. In those circumstances Clegg needs to ‘face both ways’ a little

  • Harry H

    Why can Gordon impress the Kissingers and the Bonos of this world, but not seem able to communicate to ordinary members of the public. I don’t doubt he did some difficult things last year, and did them well, but everywhere I go, people say they don’t like or rate him and it is hard to get beyond that when you are trying to persuade people to vote for him

  • londonstatto

    Since when was an award given in March “breaking news”?

  • Justin

    Since when was accepting lumps of glass from war criminals like Kissinger something to crow about?

  • olli issakainen

    I agree. GB has done a magnificent job, but can´t communicate it to voters because of his personality.

  • @jlocke13

    Ac complaining about the media….you never complained when you had them in your pocket… now the boot is on the other foot it is somehow unfair…try blogging on something of value like why the top law officer can break the law and remain in office…

  • vulpus_rex

    Is this is a sick Joke? Gordon Brown is a dithering, financial incompetent who ruined our economy why would you get and award for that? Just how bad were the other candidates FFS?

    Anyway he’ll get the country’s opinion of him next year at the election, when he’ll be slung out in disgrace, if that coward hasn’t resigned by then.

  • Bernie

    You’re right of course. Totally unbalanced coverage. Redeemed only marginally this morning when fivelive covered GB’s self-deprecation – probably hoping it would play negatively but it was actually quite good. (Note to GB – be more self-deprecating)

    Ever since the Tories did a comprehensive ‘ring around’ , of the media hoi polloi (circa 2004 according to my sources) and got a good chunk of A-to-Z listers ‘on board’, it’s been coming. Depressing isn’t it?

    I mean, you’re journo turned politico spinner AC, whereas DC has always been a er…spinner.

    This IS what Out-Blairing Blair meant right?

  • Em

    Not that Americans care much about the UN but they never miss a chance to make a song and dance about their achievements. They’re actually proud of their country, you see.

  • dick Starr

    I don’t doubt that the press can be selective in its reporting, but there seems to be an element of selective memory here too. Hark back to 1996 (or earlier) and the same comments were being made, except in those days it was the Tories complaining and Labour – under a clearly gifted communicator – who were getting the benefit. Is it simply that the press follow their readers as much as lead them?

  • Mark \’Elvis\’ Wright

    The media have their narrative and regardless of Brown’s achievements feel that it’s time for him to go. As a PM Brown does not give ‘good copy’.

    It’ll be interesting to watch the final installment of BBC2’s excellent series ‘The Love of Money’ and how it presents the story of ‘just how close we came to economic collapse’ and Brown’s role in saving the worldwide banking system.

    I suspect it’ll be favourable. Unfortunately for GB, however, the British public are more interested in how he comes across on GMTV and Loose Women than a programme of real substance.

    Mark ‘Elvis’ Wright

  • John Fowler

    By whom was he designated? Whom did they ask in the UK? who were the other contestants? So he was given the award in March before the £ fell by 18.5% against the Euro. and before the flak started flying – which is more than the helicopters – about Afghanistan.

  • Michael

    Brown’s problems is his administration’s inability to judge public opinion, its own self-righteous sense of self (witness Baroness Scotland),and New Labour’s suspicion of sincere dissent (which you reflect). This administraion is old, it’s tired, it’s failings are fresh in the public mind. John Major was not nearly so bad as NuLab and the wider media portrayed him in the mid 90s either. It’s deja vu all over again.

  • Cherie\’s back passage

    It is simply high level cronyism – an award like this is money for old rope and just goes to show how removed self congratulatory politicians are from the rest of us. The same sort of nonsense goes on in the corporate workplace, where invariably you find the same sort of hollow platitudes delivered by senior management. The press have reported Gordon’s aware – are we meant to be impressed – no, because we see through Brown’s hypocrisy and double dealing – so its quite right that the press did not go overboard here.

    On that note, when it comes to cronyism, I have no doubt TB will be made President of Europe – despite the fact that if a referendum were taken in this country or indeed the whole of Europe, he wouldn’t stand a chance – anyone who knows what he does or doesn’t do as middle east peace envoy knows that he is a showboater of the highest order.

    All the best,

    Cherie’s back passage

  • EdballsakaGoebels

    olli issakainen – are you barking mad or do you work in the Prime Mentalists bunker? I think you would have done very well as a Soviet apparatchik circa 1980s.

  • barbar of Oz

    I was reading this week that Obama had declined to have a bi-lateral meeting with Gordon Brown this week (while scheduling meetings with Russian, Japanese and Chinese leaders) and it occurred to me that, if true, the idea of a US president (or any leader) not want to meet with Tony Blair was quite unthinkable. And at a time Brit troops seem to be dying every day in Afghanistan. Unbelievable.

    As for the media, well the journos had 10 years of non stop anti Blair briefings and underminings from Gordon’s acolytes on behalf of Gordon. So when Gordon managed to comprehensively blow it a mere two months after getting power, the media turned. No surprise there. Journos are a cynical lot, who never miss a bandwagon, and I suspect some time next year we’re going to get a lot of revelations about the extent and nature of the anti-Blair briefings and a new edition of Alistair’s Diaries?