Gordon Brown’s YouTube bloomer

Posted by Richard D North under 'Power To The People!' / Dare to be dull / Death of ideology / Presentation or policy? / The Initiative Blizzard / Uncategorized on 28 April 2009

Gordon Brown took a lot of stick for his impromptu announcement of an initiative to clobber MPs’ expenses. It shows how careful you have to be when you go in for de haut en bas informal commnications on social media.

At this writing, 6000 people have looked at the piece on Number 10′s channel. It isn’t by any means the most popular of GB’s outing on YT. Several others have put him up there with Tony Blair’s ratings. He is said to look awful – hopelessly winsome and fulsome. It’s true, he does. But if you look at some other postings, he’s a revelation. Try this one on globalisation. (Here’s the text of it.) He’s funny and sharp and quite clever, just like his fans say he often is in private.

I say “quite clever”: I have looked briefly elsewhere at the evidence as to GB’s intellectuality.

In general, it’s important that politicians should post informal, short material on line. It’s one of the few arenas in which they stand a chance of reaching the young, and do it on their own terms – without the dreaded intermediation of the professional media cynics.

The YT announcement of the MPs’ expenses idea was horribly wrong of course. Let’s list the reasons.

(1) The young audience couldn’t be expected to know how this sort of initiative should not properly come from the PM at No 10. (It isn’t a government matter after all, and this audience were being misled that it might be.)

(2) Hot-foot announcements are the best way to convey the idea that an initiative has not been thought-through, debated, and made consensual. That’s to say: social media are precisely useless for the work GB chose to use them for that day.

(3) The social media are an elephant trap for leaders, from whom – in perception terms – we need dignity above all. YT is never obviously a good vehicle for dignity and is at least a testing one. That’s its downside.

(4) In a classic PR blunder, GB sets off talking uncontroversially and virtuously about how he’d like people to aspire to be MPs the way they aspire to be firemen. And then, having grabbed our attention as a mentor or a senior statesman, he uses the opportunity to play a political game. It’s a cheat.

Still, GB and the rest of us have much more to gain than lose by keeping the PM on YT.

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