Because criticism should be fair and factual

by Stephen Tall on June 23, 2008

That fearsome right-wing triumvirate – Robert Halfon for ConservativeHome, The Spectator’s Stephen Pollard and The Times’s Daniel Finkelstein – all repeat what they consider to be a terribly clever point about Gordon Brown’s tainting of David Cameron as a ‘shallow salesman’.

Here’s Mr Halfon:

Far from being used as a political insult in which Mr Brown can attack the Prime Minister [sic], salesmen should instead be celebrated for their hard work, entrepreneurial spirit and for providing services that many people could not do without. Mr Cameron should wear the salesmen badge with pride.

And here’s Mr Pollard:

I think it says a lot about the outlook of our wonderful PM that he should regard the word ‘salesman’ as an insult. … [he] appears to have an instinctive loathing of capitalism, and to regard it merely as something to be tolerated for the benefits it can bring.

(Mr Finkelstein confines himself to commending their “brilliant” insights).

But hang on a just a second. Gordon Brown didn’t condemn all salesmen. He condemned shallow salesmen, which is actually quite a big difference. Here’s a tip for Messrs Halfon, Pollard and Finkelstein: adjectives are usually quite handy clues to discerning what someone means.

I’m no apologist for the Prime Minister, as I suspect this article makes clear. But distortion for argument’s sake is just a little – how can I put it – shallow. And it’s as tedious from right-wing commentators as it is when left-wing agitators condemn money as the root of all evil (forgetting that it’s the love thereof which is responsible).