Tuesday, 10 November 2009

As damaging as it can be...

I try not to blog a commentary on the newspapers, but the transcript of the call between the PM and Jacqui Janes is too significant to miss.

It is utterly painful reading – in part, of course, because of Mrs Janes’ grief at losing her 20-year-old son.

But in the main it’s agonizing because of the PM’s manner, which is simply helpless. At times you can see he’s trying, but he just cannot separate politics from the situation.

He wants to comfort Mrs Janes, but cannot let her make a point which might be politically damaging without coming back – even though as far as he was concerned it was a private conversation.

A prime example is the part where Mrs Janes says she knows from pilots in Kandahar that there is only one casualty evacuation helicopter available.

He starts to tell her he is “sorry” she has been given that information. If you are going to say sorry in that situation, the only thing you can be sorry for is a lack of helicopters.

Anything else makes the word sorry seem empty – after that all you’re left with is a statement in which Brown is simply telling the mother she is wrong.

Surely the obvious answer for a politician in that situation would be – “that sounds like a terrible situation. I’ve done a lot to make sure troops have what they need but I will look into this personally and if it is the case, then I’ll employ the full power of Government and will intervene myself to put it right.”

I know it can be difficult to come up with the right words under pressure, but it shouldn’t be for a Prime Minister.

It sounds like Mrs Janes, coming from a military family, is well informed about what’s going on at the front.

But I suspect hacks at the Sun, who are doing David Cameron’s dirty work at the moment, have been providing her with information too.

Perhaps there is nothing wrong with that as long as she feels she is getting something out of the whole affair for her deceased son Jamie.

But I also hope she doesn’t come to regret getting his memory tangled up with journalists and politicians.

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