James Forsyth

Governments can recover from rage but not ridicule

Governments can recover from rage but not ridicule
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I doubt that even the Major government at its lowest ebb had a worse day of Sunday headlines than this government has had today. On a substantive level, Brown’s plans for the G20 appear in tatters. The Germans have leaked the draft communiqué and the New York Times has detailed Brown’s tendency to say one thing to a European audience and another to an American audience. There is also another story about Lord Myners’s tax affairs in the papers; Myners is fast becoming the personification of Brown’s foolish worship of the so-called masters of the universe. To round things off, the latest poll puts the Tories 13 points ahead.

But I suspect it isn’t these broadsheet stories that will do most harm to the government. Instead it will be the revelations that Jacqui Smith’s husband’s pay per view porn films were charged to the taxpayer and that Nigel Griffiths MP took dozen of photographs and uploaded them to his computer of a Commons sex romp that he first denied and then claimed not to remember. (The photos of Lord Myners in drag are not in the same league as the other two but are another embarrassment).

These revelations are so damaging because they will lead to the voters just laughing at the government. When the electorate rages at a government, its members can at least console themselves they are being taken seriously. But when they are being mocked, there is no such consolation.

I suspect that today's papers will lead to the the G20 being covered in a far more mocking way than it would have been otherwise; the narrative has changed. Labour should prepare itself for a year that will be even more humiliating for it than the last year of the Major government with all its tabloid tales of Tory sleaze was for the Conservatives.

Written byJames Forsyth

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

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