Simon Carr:

The Sketch: He's forgotten the first rule of leadership: indifference

Related Topics

They have strong stomachs in the lobby. I'm not sure I can go through another one of those press conferences.

"I am a shy person," the Prime Minister said, and more than one of us had to look away. Shy. He's shy. It was still all about the letter. He came in wearing a black tie. He was in mourning. He sounded as though he had a cold but it was just his mourning voice. He mourned all through his opening remarks even though half of them were about "moving away from targets" in the NHS.

The only time he became properly animated was when the subject of David Cameron or the Glasgow by-election came up – then he was recognisably himself.

The letter. He's hand written 200+ of these letters of condolence. Allies say this particular one was redeemed by its sincerity. No, no, no. In The Sun, Ms Janes nailed the particular kind of apology politicians do. "He said sorry 16 times but never apologised once." There were also the words "cumfort" and "cuntry" and her son's first name spelt "Janie".

But the lack of genuine feeling in the letter was evident – whatever feelings he may have had writing it. He wrote of Guardsman Janes and "... the huge contribution he made to the security of our country". The boy made a huge sacrifice. He was part of a huge effort to protect our security. To say he made a huge contribution to national security has no comfort in it because it isn't true.

Gordon kept on saying these things that weren't true. Why? To show he is a man of feeling. "The whole country feels a sense of loss when any soldier is killed or wounded." No, it doesn't. The whole country barely registers it. More people can name the horse wounded in Hyde Park nearly 30 years ago than can name a soldier killed three months ago in Afghanistan. That's an experiment you can try at home. But he wouldn't leave it alone even when he could. One of the hacks asked him about the 72,000 people on the Downing Street site who'd petitioned him to resign. He replied that he was a parent as well. He knew how long it takes to handle grief. "I do feel the pain of people who are grieving."

And, "I have to do my best to comfort the bereaved." But he doesn't. It's a mistake. Worse than a mistake – it's a daft conflation of public and private. It leads, for instance, to a sudden promise to rush 20 new helicopters into service. Is that what drives policy now? Prime ministerial embarrassment?

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, I think, was asked what the most important quality was for a national premier. He said: "Indifference".

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel

If I were Prime Minister: I'd end the war on drugs

Patrick Hennessey
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected