Spin – Not What You Say, But What You Appear to Have Said

Another weekend, another bag of political shenaniganning. The one-eyed Scottish idiot (that’s Gordon Brown, according to Jeremy Clarkson – he, Gordon should consider himself lucky, according to Jeremy Clarkson, Prince Philip is a c**t) was on Andrew Marr’s telly programme on Sunday morning, when Marr asked the question that we’ve all be dying to get an answer to. Is, in fact, Prudence Broon a stark raving lunatic, retaining a modicum of self-control only through the use of industrial-strength medecines? Here’s the transcript:

“Marr If you were an American president, we would know all about your medical history. You were asked in the States about your eyesight, and I think the reason you were asked is because people were wondering whether that would be a reason for standing down at some point. Let me ask you about something else everybody has been talking about – a lot of people … use prescription painkillers and pills to help them get through. Are you one of those?

Brown No. I think this is the sort of questioning that is …

Marr It’s a fair question, I think.

Brown … is all too often entering the lexicon of British politics. I have had very serious problems with my eye. I lost my eyesight playing rugby. I had three major operations and they could not save my sight. I then had exactly the same thing happen to my second eye … and every year, of course, I have to check, as I did only a few days ago, that my eyesight is good and there has been absolutely no deterioration in my eyesight, and I think people should be absolutely clear that although …

Marr What about my other question?

Brown I answered your other question. Although I have problems with my eyes and it has been very difficult over the years, I think people understand that you can do a job and you can work hard. And I think it would be a terrible indictment of our political system if you thought that because someone had this medical issue they couldn’t do the job. So, Andrew, I think these questions … of course you might be right to ask them, but … I feel that I have done everything to show people that I can do the job even with the handicap that I’ve had as a result of a rugby injury.”

This morning, the news channels are full of it. Complaints are being made to the Beeb for allowing Marr to ask the question and ‘right wing blogs’ are the new reds under our beds. In fact, there’s a real feeling that Gordon Brown really should not have been put in the situation where he had to dignify the rumours (about his use of anti-depressants) with such a denial.

But – hold up a moment. He didn’t deny it. Did he? All I read here is a sentence that, in its entirety, says “No. I think this is the sort of questioning that is all too often entering the lexicon of British politics. I have had very serious problems with my eye.” Which I understand to mean ‘no – don’t go there – this is the sort of question you shouldn’t be asking.’ I don’t see a denial there at all.

A little later, Marr asks again ‘about my other question’. And Brown simply says ‘I answered your other question’. Again, no denial – this time a simple refusal to revisit his previous answer.  Obviously – it’s not a massively important point – either he is taking horse-tranquillisers or he isn’t. And if he is, he’ll be stuffed, whether he denied it or not.

What really intrigues me is the way that apparently sensible people have seen his words as a denial. He said the word ‘no’ and therefore he’s denied whatever he was being accused of. Or is it that there’s some massive cover-up going on, for reasons of national security?

Either way, while Gord’s got muckers like the Other Prime Minister on his side, no amount of cover-up conspiracy his going to save his grey and jowly neck. Can’t help but noticing how quick Peter was to speak out ‘in defence’ of the PM, thereby ensuring that the issue wasn’t forgotten, or passed over by a less-than-vigilant media.

And this is the same Peter Mandelson who, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, when the waggish Mr Bean called out ‘Mr Prime Minister!’ simply smiled a hooded and vulpine smile and replied ‘not yet’.

And speaking, as I have been, of Mandy, Gord and painkillers – I quite enjoyed this.

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Filed under Communications Strategy, Crisis Management, External Communications, Public Relations

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