Thursday, 30 April 2009

Saved by the swine

It has not, all things considered, been a good couple of weeks for Gordon Brown, what with the McBride emails scandal shading imperceptibly into the YouTube disaster (Gigglegate?), the daily allowance U-turn, the Budget whose forecasts proved to be absurdly optimistic the next day, a mini world-tour in which various leaders treated him as though he were suffering from swine flu, a procession of Blairite irreconcilables popping up to denounce his policies - and now the Gurkhas.

Still, it could be worse. The almost daily humiliation of the prime minister may have excited the Westminster village but, beyond confirming a general sense of drift and accident-proneness, it can hardly be said to have dominated the headlines. Instead, the airwaves have been full of the swine flu. A couple in Scotland who, if reports are accurate, have symptoms scarcely distinguishable from a bad cold, are accorded the kind of wall-to-wall medical coverage last seen when the Queen Mother was on her deathbed. A school closed down for a suspected outbreak attracts almost as many reporters as the Italian earthquake. Experts clog up the TV studios, solemnly instructing viewers how to blow their noses. Face-masks are becoming as prevalent as posies during the Black Death, and about as effective. The media love a good health scare; and despite the evident fact that this virus, though contagious, is (for the moment at least) relatively mild, the epidemic offers splendid opportunities for speculation, non-specific gloom and pictures of "heroic" doctors and nurses out there on the front line.

My guess is that Gordon Brown is loving it too. Remember the last time his leadership was about to implode? It was only a few months ago. Then, as now, a succession of gaffes and back-bench mutterings, even (in David Miliband) a real possibility of a leadership putsch. But then the banks started collapsing, and suddenly Gordon was whizzing around like Superman, saving the world, knocking international heads together, laying the foundations of the global new world order before ultimately emerging, at the G20 summit, as (in Nick Robinson's felicitous phrase) "Chancellor of the World".

It's been all downhill since then, of course. But now here's a new crisis for the Weltskanzler to save us all from. True, swine flu may not call for the mastery of economic minutiae that only Gordon can offer. But it does at least put his troubles in perspective. And this too, surely, is "no time for a novice". Brown has a reputation for being an unlucky politician. But just think what a mess he would be in today if there were no pandemic in the offing, if there were nothing else for the journos to talk about but his own political disintegration. Yet again an international crisis beyond his control comes to his rescue. If Gordon Brown is still prime minister by the end of next week, he will have the Mexican pigs to thank for it.

4 comments:

WeepingCross said...

No, if he's still PM by the end of next week it will be because his colleagues all hate each other more than they do him and none of them looks more likely to be able to rescue their jobs. But we may all be dead by the end of next week. Atchoo.

englishhermit said...

Young Anthony Blair isn't doing too well over at CiF today with jayreilly being dispatched to Woollyland, the thread being closed down after three quarters of the comments were removed.

asquith said...

I was very touched by those pictures of couples kissing whilst wearing masks. It seems to be showing the right sort of defiance & resilience even in the face of threats.

Edwin Moore said...

hmm Monklands hospital reminds me of an earlier scandal involving a Labour prime minister -

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/john-smiths-bitter-harvest-allegations-of-corruption-could-rob-labour-of-its-former-leaders-constituency-john-torode-reports-1424762.html

Smith got through that one in Scotland while he was alive, thanks to the cowardly nature of the Scottish media, but it was only a matter of time before the UK media got hold of it. I don't think there is anything comparable lurking in Brown's back story - he's been about so long most his enemies have died of chicken suppers I suppose, though if I were looking for a good story on what's happened to British education, I would compare Kirkcaldy in Brown's era with the present day - a tale of dreadful decline.

englishhermit, I managed to copy my last post (and some of the other comments) on that thread before it was vaporised. I suggested to Matt Seaton that if the Blair blog were not intended as some kind of bonding exercise for Cif, as I hoped at first (I keep finding irony on Cif where none is intended), but was put up as as a blog for serious debate, then he should close it down as he (in Lear-like manner) threatened.

It was obvious what was going to happen. We all disagree on Cif, but there is a shared hostility towards that horrible man.