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How Brown fudges leave bitter taste in the mouth

Published 15/04/2008

Is it a protest or isn't it? Is Prime Minister Gordon Brown making a statement against China's actions in Tibet by not attending the opening of the Olympic Games or is he really refusing to waste taxpayers' money on a junket to Beijing?

It says much about Brown's personality that people could actually be convinced that he is the stereotypical tight-fisted Scotsman and is not attending on the basis of fiscal rectitude: "Why bother travelling all that way to watch some ninnies running about the place? I have a country to run." However, it says even more about Labour and its ethics that no one is really sure whether Brown could actually be bothered to protest openly against Chinese state violence. (No such confusion over in the United States where Democratic candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, are both calling for a boycott of the opening ceremony.) Brown's actions are so convoluted that he makes a contortionist look like a straight man.

He has given the world the perfect Brownian fudge. A Blairite fudge did at least allow you to know that the issue was being fudged — and then some. But Brown fudges the fudge so much that you are not even sure if it is fudge.

Does he believe that the Chinese should be held to account for their actions or does he believe that such talk is just a waste of time? Is he principled enough or pragmatic enough to offer an opinion on either side?

Should people not watch the opening ceremony as a protest against China or should they not watch because it will save their electricity bill by turning the television off?

Should we act out of moral principle or regard for our income? Come on Gordon, give us a clue, a hint, a scowl, as to what you think.


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