Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister, expressed his relationship with former Chancellor Gordon Brown as somewhat stressful over the years. Blair continued to describe Brown as “brilliant” but lacking “emotional intelligence.” Blair’s comments regarding Brown by many seemed to be harsh and politically timed. Blair also commented that Brown’s abilities may have been “overestimated” from his earlier positions, but were “underestimated” in later accomplishments.
Tessa Jowell worked with Blair and Brown in 2006 and stated that an “attempted coup” was orchestrated against Blair in May. Blair believed the revolt originated with allies of Brown. The most inflammatory statements by Blair, however, suggested that Brown was impossible to work with and that Brown would not be successful as Prime Minister, as Brown was limited in necessary political instincts. With Blair’s memoirs being released on the day Brown’s political contests were due, the book and comments seem to be retaliatory against Brown and divisive to the Labour Party.
The Labour Party officials are also frustrated that Blair is no longer in the same political arena, thus out of reach from the effects of political and Party retaliation. Blair has little to lose politically at this time, but negative comments by political figures, such as those of Blair’s, can mean political suicide. Have any instances in the U.S. had a similarly negative impact on careers and party reputations?
A caustic remark made by New Hampshire Rep. Timothy Horrigan suggested that it would be good if Sarah Palin were to die in a plane crash, referring to the one that tragically took the life of Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens and other notable Americans. This remark was followed by Horrigan’s prompt letter of resignation. Horrigan evidently spoke first and thought later, realizing what he had actually said.
While no one is perfect and people sometimes misspeak, statements similar to Blair’s and certainly like Horrigan’s are not wise and can damage voter perceptions. The political end for Horrigan was swift and was supported by fellow leaders, such as Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckly.
Blair, though, may not experience the full effects of his statements against Brown. As the appointed envoy to the Middle East, Blair’s future may not be damaged to the extent of Horrigan’s. But peer-to-peer conflicts and criticisms can be risky, and many times backfire.
Through history, politicians have made poor statements and have later paid the price for not calibrating their statements wisely. Careful consideration and sometimes slower responses can take advantage of time by gathering more information prior to speaking. Voters empathize with leaders at times and can accept apologies, but apologies are sometimes not enough, considering the position of public officials and what is said.
BBC. (2010). Brown allies describe Blair criticism as ‘one-sided’. BBC.com. Retrieved September 1, 2010 from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11155571
Condon, S. (2010). New Hampshire Lawmaker Resigns After “Dead Palin” Comment. CBSnews.com. Retrieved September 1, 2010 from: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20013520-503544.html