It looks like I underestimated the intelligence of the British public when I said that Gordon Brown's spat with the grieving mother of a dead British soldier was a no-win situation for him. Actually, he's winning: a new poll finds that 65 percent of British voters think that the attacks on Brown--which are being orchestrated by The Sun, the Murdoch-owned tabloid that's supporting David Cameron--are unfair. Alex Massie captures the sentiment:
[T]here come moments when legitmate criticism crosses some kind of line and becomes bullying. This is one such instance. Clearly it's regrettable that the Prime Minister's letter to Jacqui Janes contained a number of spelling mistakes. Clearly too, there are legitimate questions that may be asked over the government's Afghan policy and the way the war has been conducted. But using grieving mothers and widows as a stick with which to beat the government is not, shall we say, an edifying or ennobling sight.
This is shameful stuff. Whatever one may think of the PM, the notion that he has no care or empathy for the families of sldiers killed in Afghanistan is, to put it mildly, a stretch based upon little credible evidence. That a blind man - which, functionally speaking, Brown is - takes the trouble to hand-write - or, if you will, scrawl - these letters when it would evidently be much, much easier for him to dictate them might, in a better world, be considered evidence of the Prime Minister's good intentions. Of course, if they were typed he'd be criticised for not writing them by hand...
As I say, I hold no brief for Brown but the behaviour of the press in this instance has been shameful. Though not, of course, surprising. And, of course, by using the deaths of servicemen as a stick with which to beat Brown, the papers are themselves exploiting those deaths, not for any great cause, but simply for commercial advantage and to demonstrate that they too know how to kick a crippled Prime Minister. Whatever else it may be, this is not one of the media's finer moments.
So maybe the practice of handwriting condolence letters isn't destined for extinction, after all. Also, do you think Murdoch's media properties in the U.S. might be looking at the Brown incident as a cautionary tale and wondering just where to draw the line in their attacks on Obama, lest those attacks start to engender sympathy for the president? It was interesting to note how quickly Murdoch's spokesman issued a statement saying his boss doesn't agree with Beck that Obama's a racist, after seeming to say in an interview that he did.