Sylvester wins “Summitballs” prize

Last week I predicted that the fashionable British journalist looking for ways to belittle the Brown Obama meeting would use some fairly predictable techniques to do just that, and longtime commenter Newmania added another example.

I’m glad to say that Rachel Sylvester has repaid my faith in modern journalism in full by employing all of these techniques. Well done Rachel, you are clearly at the beating heart of today’s conventional wisdom. Hon mentions in each category to other hacks how have employed the same techniques.

The snide comparison.

ME: “The young, glamourous Obama and the grizzled, careworn Brown made odd companions yesterday as they…”

Rachel Sylvester, The Times: Privately, though, even Mr Brown’s own aides admit there is a danger that the trip will simply reinforce his weaknesses – that he will look wooden next to the more charismatic man, and that his address to Congress will highlight his inability to communicate with the voters at home.

The implication of desperation:

Me “Team Brown knew that they would be judged on whether they got to see Obama first, so the British diplomacy was focused on getting that crucial meeting, a move which some say frustrated Obama’s team, “We’ve got this huge crisis on, and all Brown’s people wanted to know was when we were going to meet. In the end we just gave in” said one source in my head.”

Rachel Sylvester: Gordon Brown is in Washington today to touch the hem of Barack Obama’s cloak. Like the bleeding woman healed by Jesus, so the man hemorrhaging political support hopes to be saved by this modern Messiah…

Hon mention, Toby Harnden, Telegraph US editor: Of course, Britain should want to be a pre-eminent ally of the United States. But do we need to be quite so crawlingly needy and obvious about it? The way the British government craves approval from President Barack Obama is humiliating, and very probably counter-productive.

The hint at hidden tensions

ME: “While it was all smiles and glad handing in the rose garden, It’s clear that Obama is becoming increasingly frustrated with what some American commentators are calling grandstanding by the British Prime Minister. Said one prominent insider I’ll phone later “Gordon Brown had ten years to fix this, so what he thinks he can tell Obama’s team I don’t know”.

Rachel Sylvester: “He may in fact end up looking like a terrier yapping at the heels of the more powerful man. Although No10 likes to say that Britain and America are “on the same page” when it comes to tackling the recession, the size of the print is rather different…  …When the Prime Minister talks of brokering a “grand bargain” under which Europe would stump up more cash and America relinquish protectionism, he risks looking either irritating – or, worse, irrelevant.”

Hon Mention, Nick Robinson: His policy objective is to secure President Obama’s engagement in developing what he’s dubbed “a global new deal” to combat the threat of depression. So far, his officials say, the new team at the White House has been too busy developing domestic policy to worry much about British ideas for an international economic plan to be unveiled at the London meeting of world leaders in April.

The wrong focus?

Newmania:  Brown is busy prancing about being a big international star when we need some jobs and lower tax here

Rachel Sylvester: The real danger for Mr Brown is that he is seen to be grandstanding abroad while people here are losing their jobs and homes.

Oh, and of course, the one I missed: the focus on the utterly irrelvant but important to journalists… in this case the precise location, length and extent of any Brown-Obama press conference, which subject is currently on the front pages of the Times website.

Get over yourselves, dudes.

8 Responses to “Sylvester wins “Summitballs” prize”

  1. newmania

    Preen preen , how nice . I also compared Brown to the mother who tells everyone she and her daughter are like sisters ,but forgot to say that’s what I meant. It struck as suitably embarrassing .
    I think there are some facts that are immune to this or that bit of “Statesmanlike “ be straddling of the word stage .
    Brown set the regulatory frame work , Brown took credit for the boom , Brown said there would be no bust many times. Equally importantly Brown spent all those years playing the unpleasant partner who was even more left wing than Blair so as to curry favour in the Labour Party . Everyone knows if you want to discredit someone you quote what they say to the Party .In Browns place it went on so long that it became his calling card. Would Conservative have regulated the banks better? Not the point , would Brown have kept out of the ERM ? No-one cares least of all Brown weho spent that dividend as well
    We were specifically promised Blair did not mean Brown he did not call an election and Labour failed to hold one. He cannot stand for the country.
    The reason why all these remarks are predictable is partly because they are true . He is not a large political figure he will not win an election and the only possible excuse for the cowardice of the Labour Party is that by picking him at least all the offences get taken into consideration at one election . Most people are already looking beyond the loss of power into what next.I support Harriet Harman but David Milliband would be my choice if I did not want the Labour Party dead and buried

    How about you Hopi , who are you quietly supporting , I bet its Milliband . Come on tell tell , I bet its Milliband I know it is .

  2. Vulpus_rex

    You seem to be claiming some kind of credit for pointing out the obvious a week before some other journalist does:

    1) Brown does look a physical wreck, whereas Obama does not

    2) Brown is desperate for some good publicity

    3) Why would someone listen to Brown on financial regulation when his track record is appalling

    To spin Ms Sylvester’s comments as somhow tediously predictable is a bit like criticising someone for reminding us next week that the sky is blue.

  3. bigmacsub

    Trying to negate the obvious criticisms of Brown’s hubristic junket by saying they are obvious is, well, obvious.

    A cast around the rest of the press today (apart from the Beeb obviously) would return more evidence of your foresight of their reporting, guess they must all be wrong huh? Because, like, you called it.

    We all know why he is there and for what motives. Last chance for a polls bounce in order to call a summer election perchance? Noble he may think he is, but desperate is how hes coming across.

    … and really “get over yourselves dudes”?

  4. Jim Jim the Dog Faced Boy

    You have to admit being shoehorned into a day that involved such important meetings as the Boy Scouts of America is pretty funny.

  5. hopisen

    Pffft. If Sarkozy had got here today, the British press would be full of “Brown snubbed for casual, personal talks with Sarko” since he didn’t their full of this stuff instead.

    The whole way these stories are covered is a strteam of effluent issueing from the pens of otherwise sane and rational hacks, a condition brought about by forced travel, tight deadlines and a sort of group think herd mentality.

    At the risk of citing David Foster Wallace at every occassion, the best reporting on this effect is his essay “Up, Simba” an abridged version of which, you can and should read here (for the Conservatives, it’s mostly a paen to John McCain)

  6. hopisen

    You;’re right, but to be fair to me, that piece was only published today, so I couldn’t anticipate that Alice Miles would completely out-Sylvester her rival.

    I am anxiously awaiting the Sue Cameron piece to complete the Heathers trilogy.


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