Miliband’s over-blown gaffe

by Stephen Tall on February 9, 2007

I’m not too sure what David Miliband’s done to deserve his reputation as next-Labour-leader-but-one. (It won’t ever happen.)

But I will stick up for him today in the face of the rather pathetic reporting which has followed his supposed ‘gaffe’ that Gordon Brown will make an unpopular Prime Minister.

Here is what he said on last night’s Question Time:

“I predict that when I come back on this programme in six months’ or a year’s time, people will be saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have that Blair back, because we can’t stand that Gordon Brown.'”

The point he was quite evidently making – obvious to anyone with a scintilla of objectivity – was that being at the top guarantees you attract flak. And that, as people begin to view the past with red rose-tinted spectacles, Tony Blair will be increasingly highly regarded. (John Major’s resurrection among popular opinion, despite having led the most disastrous government of modern times, is testament to the redemptive power of impotence.)

Nothing controversial about that. However, a quick scan down today’s headlines suggests otherwise:

Indeed, thegrauniad chose to take Mr Miliband’s remark utterly out of context in their travesty of an article, Public could turn against Brown, warns Miliband:

The enviroment secretary warned that public opinion could quickly turn against the chancellor, with voters claiming: “We can’t stand that Gordon Brown.” [Do enjoy their spelling of ‘enviroment’ (sic) by the way.]

Time was when a gaffe meant a gaffe. Now it’s deployed by lazy journalists as an excuse to paraphrase ad absurdum an otherwise straightforward remark. Is it any wonder if politicians become ever more banal and tight-lipped in response?