Politics: Three jeers for George Osborne!
When your policies are as unpopular as the Chancellor's, it's no wonder the whole Paralympic stadium decides to boo you. John Walsh suggests how Gideon should have responded
Prolific writer and commentator John Walsh contributes columns to the paper as well as writing features, interviews and restaurant reviews. He has been editor of The Independent Magazine, literary editor of the Sunday Times and features editor of the London Evening Standard.
Wednesday 05 September 2012
Boooooooooo! Horrible noise, isn't it? An extended, derisive moan of obliteration, it's worse than a heckle because it means that your audience wants to drown out your words (or your very presence in the hall) by any means available. Unless you're Bruce Springsteen, at whose concerts the noise means a worshipping "Bruuuuuuuce", you have to think about what you're doing there on stage. If you're a politician, you'll stand there thinking, "Oh shite, this is being filmed. It'll be all over YouTube in an hour and all over Twitter in two" – and you have to work out what to do, while the boos reverberate around the stadium like a ghastly wind. Laugh it off? Run away in tears? Adopt a pained expression? Try a two-handed "Calm down everyone" gesture?
Recently there's been a minor epidemic of boos/jeers/catcalls at public events, and a variety of boo-management tactics were on display. When George Osborne appeared at the Olympic Stadium to dish out the medals to the winners in the men's 400 metres, the mention of his name provoked a chorus of boos. Maybe the crowd held him responsible for signing up Atos as a Paralympic sponsor. Maybe it was because of the recession. Maybe it was just his eager-schoolboy face. His response was to laugh, as if it was a joke he was in on. But his eyes flashed with momentary panic. (Thank goodness the athletes agreed to bow their heads and let him hang medals around their necks; if they'd refused, he really would have been in trouble.)
Mitt Romney took a big chance last month in addressing the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People convention and trying to persuade them that he would do more for black Americans than Barack Obama. He was heard in an at-best mutinous silence until, halfway through, he vowed to abolish Obamacare. In the ensuing 15-second crescendo of jeers, he adopted the sitcom-actor tactic of freezing his expression as though waiting for an interlocutor to stop talking.
In the run-up to the presidential election in Russia, Vladimir Putin was loudly booed at a martial-arts contest in Moscow by voters clearly sick of having their voices ignored. Putin himself did a brilliant job of ignoring the tumult, as if the barracking was about someone else (and Russian TV duly reported that the boos had been for the American opponent in the sporting bout).
YouTube has a nice clip of Justin Bieber at a New York Knicks game, looking around for the source of the crowd's booing and realising it's because a close-up of his lovely face has appeared on the big screen. His response is to drop his eyes to his lap and breathe deeply, possibly telling himself: "It's just the guys… they're all jealous."
They could all take a lesson from Barack Obama, who is a master with booers and hecklers: he has the rare ability to talk through the storm, laughing, raising a hand, throwing in a self-deprecating remark like a seasoned vaudevillian, and saying: "You gotta know your crowd…" It certain beats George Osborne's glassy grin.
- 1 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 2 Anti-gay hate preacher accidentally tweets 4,000 followers cartoon clip of him 'confessing' to be a 'homosexual sodomite'
- 3 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 4 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
- 5 Kenya bus attack: Al-Shabaab militants kill 28 non-Muslims who failed to recite Koran
Ryan Gosling granted temporary restraining order against a woman 'convinced she was his twin flame'
Jennifer Lawrence sings in new The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt 1 clip on YouTube
Anti-gay hate preacher accidentally tweets 4,000 followers cartoon clip of him 'confessing' to be a 'homosexual sodomite'
Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Myleene Klass: Ed Miliband 'strikes back' by comparing UK's need for Labour's mansion tax to Hear'Say track
Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...
£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...