Leading article: A matter of character

Share
Related Topics

Rather than basking in the afterglow of the G-20 summit, as he might have hoped, the Prime Minister has spent his Easter holiday writing letters. Some were personal, and properly contrite – to those, including the Conservative leader and the shadow Chancellor – who were slurred in the now notorious emails, sent by his media adviser, Damian McBride. One, to the Cabinet Secretary, Gus O'Donnell, was more of a gesture for public consumption, setting out how the code of conduct that applies to special advisers should, be tightened up.

Gordon Brown's letters are the closest he is going to come to the formal apology demanded by his opponents. He calls the offending emails "a matter of great regret", describes the allegations made as "unsubstantiated claims" and says he has "taken responsibility" by accepting Mr McBride's resignation and making clear that such actions do not belong in the political culture. This strikes a different tone from the self-righteous distancing coming from No 10 and Labour ministers since the story broke.

The harm, though, has been done – and a lot of it. Mr McBride was working for the Prime Minister. The emails were sent from his office. Who knows, if they had not come to light, whether they might not have been acted on for campaign purposes. The story may not be as damaging to politicians in voters' minds as the never-ending revelations about MPs' expenses – the public by and large probably regards politics as an even nastier business than it mostly is. But it personally wounds Mr Brown in a way that the expenses saga does not.

It is not only that he took office as Prime Minister with a promise to banish "spin". It is that his long association with Mr McBride casts aspersions on his remaining claims to public respect: the widespread belief that he takes a high-minded approach to politics and his reputation for common decency. Neither the adjustment to the code for special advisers – always an awkward presence in Whitehall – nor private letters of regret to the injured parties can undo what has been done. Character, deceptively perhaps, had been Mr Brown's strength. Now he looks like all the rest.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: the paraphernalia of a practised burglar – screwdrivers, gloves, children

Guy Keleny
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits  

So who, really, is David Cameron, our re-elected ‘one nation’ Prime Minister?

Andrew Grice
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?