The stage was set – Gleneagles 2007 – Gordon Brown was to parade his stature on the International stage – in Glory – at the scene of his 2005 triumph. Kofi Annan was in tow and the Moderator and Cardinal had been drafted in as the opening acts. Oh, and Hilary Benn and Jack McConnell brought up the rear to make up the numbers (in both senses).
The sun shone in the sky, the bussed in protestors were polite, even if their ‘Trade not Trident’ t-shirts must have been a mite irritating. The snappers who feed the London press were out in force (Reuters, Bloombergs the lot). It was a moment to savour – especially with a £150 million rabbit pulled out of the Chancellor’s magic hat and announced the day before (to get two bites at the media cherry). £20 million of this to fund Unicef to educate children in war zones (that will be four emote buttons in one phrase).
So what happened, why wasn’t this front page news? Well there were the lost boys and Wendy coming back from Iran, and four more Brits blown up in Basra, (why were they all out there – remind me?) but has International Development really become a non-issue in the public’s mind. I don’t think so. In fact the SCIAF poll I’ve referred to before shows that Scots still give a shit about the rest of the world and the chronic state of poverty that persists. The Make Poverty History campaign was a big deal and remains a big deal. What happened, was that much of the media saw through Gordon’s bid to play party politics with the agenda. The BBC boycotted the whole event. No radio, no television in Scotland nor in England. Today BBC Scotland online has news from both the SNP and the Liberals that they’re each planning to double the Scottish international aid budge – and these paltry proposals makes news. Bizarre. Or reassuring – you decide.
Brown didn’t make it because it all seemed just a little bit too cynically stage managed. And it was. We are in the midst of an election campaign in Scotland, wrapping yourself in the legacy of Gleneagles in order to project your own Prime Ministerial and Labour Party agenda is just too sad. Come back on the 6th of July, Gordon, if you want to mark a moment.
I feel sorry for Gordon, because it must have seemed like such a good idea when his Treasury chums presented it. But the tiny rewards in media terms must have been very disappointing.
I feel sorry for Jack because he wasted an afternoon sitting on a stage and by the time he got up to speak all the snappers had gone.
ps, The bit I liked the most was when first the Moderator and then the Cardinal spoke clearly about the ease with which funds were found for the Trident replacement when the UK government is still a couple of billion short of its International aid commitments.