Prime Ministers Are Prey to Delusion. I Am Filled with Apprehension for Mr Brown ; COMMENT & DEBATE

By Watkins, Alan | The Independent on Sunday (London, England), January 21, 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Prime Ministers Are Prey to Delusion. I Am Filled with Apprehension for Mr Brown ; COMMENT & DEBATE


Watkins, Alan, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)


One of my colleagues has written that Mr Gordon Brown and his visit to India were driven off the front pages by the row about Big Brother. This seems to me the direct opposite of what occurred. Indeed, is still going on. So far from being upstaged by Ms Jade Goody and her playground pals, the Chancellor has become part of the act.

Mr Brown has won admiring opinions for a couple of sentences of conventional political piety. He has proved himself even more adept with the quick all-purpose quote than Mr Tony Blair. I sometimes think we Welsh are the only surviving unprotected species in western Europe, not to mention the United States, and long may that state of outlawry continue.

Whatever the merits of the business may be, it was Ms Goody who put Mr Brown at the top of the news bulletins, not the expansion of higher education in the Indian sub-continent or the increase of the gross domestic product.

Mr Nick Robinson, the BBC's political editor, always reminds me of a sharp radio comedian from a bygone, more purely verbal, era, an impression which is wholly in his favour. But even he, who is not devoid of a sense of humour - quite the reverse, I should have thought - seemed to think it bizarre to find himself broadcasting from India about a debased television programme from London.

Quite who is to accompany a senior politician on one of his (or her) frequent trips abroad is among the byways of modern journalism. The Prime Minister has for some years now (at least since the days of Harold Macmillan, I estimate) taken the lobby correspondents with him, the "political editors" as they are now called. Political editors, who rarely edited anything, were transformed from the more accurately named political correspondents in order to escape one of Edward Heath's pay policies and accordingly to be paid slightly more money. Other specialist correspondents were given similar dignity, from the same financial motive. But this is by the way. As I say, political editors have a monopoly of the Prime Minister, just as the Prime Minister has a monopoly of them. Seats are - or, at all events, used to be - offered at cut-price rates on the Downing Street aeroplane, so saving the newspapers money, though not very much of it.

Chancellors of the Exchequer customarily have been less adventurous in their travelling plans. After all, the more glamorous functions of the Foreign Secretary have steadily been eliminated in favour of the primacy of the first Lord of the Treasury. The Chancellor has to stay at home. Indeed, he ought to stay at home.

In Henry James's short story "The Lesson of the Master" an established author is giving some advice to his younger disciple: "That takes off a little of my esteem for this thing of yours - that it goes on abroad. Hang 'abroad'! Stay at home and do things here - do subjects we can measure."

For some months now, Mr Brown has shown signs of wanting to visit faraway places with strange-sounding names. As a virtual certainty to go on to No 10, he is now accompanied by the BBC's political editor. True, The Guardian's man on the spot is that paper's economics editor, Mr Larry Elliott. So the en-search tourage is divided between political editors, as they are now called, and other editors, all of whose qualifications for editing are by no means self-evident, to say the least.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Prime Ministers Are Prey to Delusion. I Am Filled with Apprehension for Mr Brown ; COMMENT & DEBATE
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?