A cold, bitter, vindictive, swindling bully? Surely not, Gordon...
Thursday 10 July 2008
The PM is intense, and by God he can brood to Olympic levels, but we must hope the comparisons with Heathcliff cease there. For the latter is one of the nastiest pieces of work in literature. He may have been impersonated on screen by beetle-browed hunks from Laurence Olivier to Ralph Fiennes, but he's still a 24-carat bastard.
His origins, like his other name, are shrouded in mystery. He comes, literally, from nowhere. Orphaned, homeless, starving and filthy, he is discovered (aged seven) in the streets of Liverpool by Mr Earnshaw, owner of Wuthering Heights, who, for reasons that remain inscrutable, takes him home and fosters him. Heathcliff is the classic alien intruder who destroys everything around him. Ellen the maid says he might be of Indian or Chinese descent. The critic Terry Eagleton speculated that he might be a feral Irish boy, on the run from poverty on the Dublin streets. Whatever, he repays his benefactor's kindness with hostility, until he forms a bond with six-year-old Cathy and they grow up in passionate amity on the barren moors.
As love stories go, Wuthering Heights is about as romantic as cholera. Everyone suffers and almost everyone dies – mostly as a result of Heathcliff's determination to destroy everyone who ever treated him like a servant, or stopped him marrying his foster-sister Cathy. The centre of the book is vengeance on your enemies – surely not a Brown trait. When Heathcliff makes a fortune (we don't know how – by exercising prudence?) and returns to the family that wronged him, he's an avenging devil. In short he comes across as a cold, bitter, unfeeling, vindictive, swindling bully. And as he gets older, he just turns nastier.
Gordon Brown might feel empathy with Heathcliff's dark intensity, his ability to make money and his property portfolio; but he isn't a role model to recommend to any sentient human being. Even a politician.
So what does that make the others...
Blair's grin and loud proclamations of personal probity may put some Dickens readers in mind of Mr James Carker, the personal assistant in Dombey and Son who manipulates his superior in order to better himself.
His oleaginous manner. recalls the Rev Obadiah Slope in the Barsetshire Chronicles (played by Alan Rickman). It's not just the love of sermons, it's Trollope's description of his hair looking "lightly buttered".
Clegg's boyish ineffectuality may remind some of Ralph, leader of the "good" faction in Lord of the Flies. He believes that, instead of mucking about, one should be serious and moral. He tells the boys about liberal democracy, but they stop listening and try to kill him with sharpened sticks...
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