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Gordon Brown, MAOIs, and peculiar words

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Warning: This post was published more than 7 years ago.

I keep old posts on the site because sometimes it's interesting to read old content. Not everything that is old is bad. Also, I think people might be interested to track how my views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured!

But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:

  • My views might have changed in the 7 years since I wrote this post.
  • This post might use language in ways which I would now consider inappropriate or offensive.
  • Factual information might be outdated.
  • Links might be broken; embedded material might not appear properly.

Many thanks for your understanding.

You know those bags of Rowntree’s Randoms, constantly advertised on TV? Seemingly reasonable people suddenly start spouting inappropriate words for their situation because they’ve indulged in a jelly sweet which has an unusual shape?

I’m beginning to wonder whether Gordon Brown has accidentally ingested a whole packet of the Prime Ministerial equivalent. How else can you explain the way he claims to be “pleased” and “proud” to apologise for the appalling treatment of Alan Turing, surely one of the greatest British heroes of the twentieth century? The words are simply inappropriate, as can be clearly seen by applying them to similar situations:

Mr Smith, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to apologise for your wife’s unfortunate death!

Mrs Jones, I’m proud to say that I can apologise for running over your cat!

Mr Thomas, I’m pleased and proud to apologise for your son’s death in Afghanistan!

Except, Gordon Brown wasn’t pleased and proud in the latter case. He was reportedly “devastated” about recent deaths in the country. Not angry, not apologetic, not regretful, not mourningful, not sorry, just “devastated”. Of course, not “devastated” enough to go to a military funeral, or even visit any injured soldier in hospital. Just “devastated” enough to repeatedly use the word and move on.

There are some who suspect there’s something altogether more worrying underlying Gordon Brown’s unusual responses. They claim, based on reports that he must avoid eating cheese and drinking chianti, that he is taking MAOIs, and old-fashioned kind of antidepressant.

The assertion that Gordon Brown uses MAOIs was recently made plain by Matthew Norman in the Independent, after months of hinting from Simon Heffer in the Telegraph and Matthew Parris in the Times.

The substantial problem with this theory is that virtually no-one takes MAOIs, as they’re extremely outdated and have some pretty nasty side-effects. On top of this, there are manifest reasons for avoiding cheese and chianti: A tendency for migraines, a plethora of food allergies, or a sensitivity to appearing too middle-class.

Yet whether or not he’s taking MAOIs, there are substantial rumours suggesting that Gordon Brown might be depressed. Whether or not this may impair his ability to fulfil the role of Prime Minister is debateable.

Iain Dale, for example, believes that it shouldn’t matter if Mr Brown is depressed – he deserves our compassion more than our criticism. He cites the example of Churchill, who was undoubtedly depressed but still a great Prime Minister.

I see entirely where Iain is coming from, and, for what it’s worth, I largely agree. I see no reason why depression should preclude decent Premiership.

But we live in a media-driven world that Churchill never experienced. Churchill was an alcoholic, and this may never have affected his leadership. That didn’t stop the Lib Dems overthrowing Charles Kennedy – their most charismatic leader to date – because he was a recovering alcoholic. The image wasn’t right. And if the image of a recovering alcoholic isn’t right for leader of a liberal party, how can a person with mental health problems ever be the right image for a Prime Minister?

To me, it actually doesn’t matter whether Gordon Brown is depressed or whether he fits the model image of a Prime Minister. What matters is that he’s terrible at his job. Performance must surely be judged above all else, especially for one of the country’s top jobs. And Mr Brown fails that test, and fails it miserably: From the economy, to student debt, to any one of manifest crises between which Mr Brown has lurched, it’s clear that he simply doesn’t have “The Right Stuff”.

But in today’s politics, who does? David Cameron? I suspect we might be on the verge of finding out.


Last Friday, The Pod Delusion launched. The pilot episode included a contribution from me on this subject, on which this post is based. Now go and listen to the rest!

This 1,399th post was filed under: Health, News and Comment, Politics, .






More posts worth reading

What I’ve been reading this month (published 6th February 2017)

What I’ve been reading this month (published 31st December 2016)

What I’ve been reading this month (published 30th November 2016)

New kid on the newsstand (published 23rd January 2005)

Adults better Web surfers than teens (published 2nd February 2005)

It’s Out (published 27th April 2005)

Thoughts on the Serial podcast (published 15th January 2015)


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