Picture the scene, a high pressure international summit at the height of the Cold War. US President Ronald Reagan is due to meet then Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme for the first time. To ensure no social faux pas, Reagan asks his team whether Mr Palme had any communist sympathies. An aide quickly explains: "No Mr President, he's an anti-communist", without bothering to process this important bit of information Reagan retorted sharply: "I don't care what kind of communist he is". Get it?? Rolling in the aisles?? LOL??? NO, ah!
Well spare a thought for the various aides following Gordon Brown around the country, and not to mention the numerous audiences of party faithful who have to offer a polite titter. As news has it that this joke has been told at every meeting so far. Clearly this is part of Gordon's attempt to shake off his image as lacking a sense of humour and being too dour and sombre. Is it working, well BBC Radio 4 did a classic piece of political journalism to check out Gordon's delivery. Stand-up comedian Paul Sinha explained his delivery was weak, he appeared bored telling the joke, and the joke is not that good anyway. I'm stunned, I am glad they got an expert in.
However journalists when on to criticise the new touch feely image politicians try to cultivate, discussing the lack of substance and elevation of personality, celebrity and authenticity. I agree, hear hear! However, isn't this just a little rich coming from any journalist. They have suggested Brown would lack appeal as prime minister because he seems too serious, that his personality is flawed. The man is not a comedian, despite suggestions that his calculations are a joke, why should he feel the need to become one? Well because of his portrayal, the perceptions held of him, and what the media claim his personality to lack. Again damned if you do, damned if you don't! It brings to a question that remains central to all studies of the media-politics relations; should the media inform or comment and if both what is the acceptable amount of comment and how should the news agenda be determined - all very pertinent questions!