James Forsyth

Brown’s Olympian confusion

Brown's Olympian confusion
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Gordon Brown’s position on the Beijing Olympics is becoming more absurd by the day. He’s happy to have the Olympic flame surrounded by guards from a particularly unsavoury branch of the Chinese security services in Downing Street but not to touch it himself. Now, he’s planning to skip the opening ceremony but doesn’t want anyone thinking that he is snubbing or boycotting the event.

Brown’s confused position has seen him drawn into the US presidential campaign with Hillary Clinton—who supports a boycott of the opening ceremony—praising Brown for his stance:

“I wanted to commend Prime Minister Gordon Brown for agreeing not to go to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing.  That was an important decision by Prime Minister Brown and I am calling on Senators McCain and Obama to join me in my request that President Bush also not attend the opening ceremonies.” 

It is hard to see what Brown gains from his confused position. If he doesn’t go to the opening ceremony, the Chinese will interpret it as a snub whatever Brown’s press people might say. But if Brown continues to try and downplay the human rights issue when it comes to China he is not going to get credit for being true to his moral compass.  The Prime Minister needs to remember that, at times, to govern is to choose.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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