Gordon Brown coverage takes a nasty turn

Gordon Brown may have a lot to answer for about his conduct as Britain’s Prime Minister, but the BBC’s Andrew Marr went way over the line in asking him about rumors that he is using painkillers in an interview. “A lot of people in this country use prescription painkillers and pills to help them get ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
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BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown listens to Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling speaking at The Labour Party Conference on September 28, 2009 in Brighton, England. The Chancellor said that banks should cut bonuses in his speech to delegates. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Gordon Brown may have a lot to answer for about his conduct as Britain's Prime Minister, but the BBC's Andrew Marr went way over the line in asking him about rumors that he is using painkillers in an interview. "A lot of people in this country use prescription painkillers and pills to help them get through. Are you one of them?” Marr asked the irritated Brown.

The question was based on rumors that have been floating the British blogosphere for weeks, though the original author says that he was merely floating a theory based on an overheard remark about changes in the prime minister's diet and had no proof to back up his speculation. 

Gordon Brown may have a lot to answer for about his conduct as Britain’s Prime Minister, but the BBC’s Andrew Marr went way over the line in asking him about rumors that he is using painkillers in an interview. “A lot of people in this country use prescription painkillers and pills to help them get through. Are you one of them?” Marr asked the irritated Brown.

The question was based on rumors that have been floating the British blogosphere for weeks, though the original author says that he was merely floating a theory based on an overheard remark about changes in the prime minister’s diet and had no proof to back up his speculation. 

The Marr interview followed one with NBC’s Brian Williams in the U.S., in which Brown was asked about other rumors that he is going blind in his one good eye. Brown denies this as well.

Whatever you think of Brown’s performance of prime minister, there’s nothing credible to suggest it is being adversely affected by either his eyesight or whatever medication he is taking. But he has always brought out a particularly nasty streak in the British media. BBC presenter Jeremy Clarkson, for instance, famously called the prime minister a “one-eyed Scottish idiot.”

And if it’s not his health, it’s his physical appearance and public persona: Christopher Hitchens has described “his fingernails … gnawed down to the knuckle.” On this Web site, Alad Sked wrote, “his jaw seems to detach itself in a strange manner when he inhales while speaking.” The Times‘s Robert Harris has described his “alarming smile which seems to appear from nowhere as if a button marked “smile” has been pressed in his head” and suggested that he may have Asperger’s Syndrome.

Given Brown’s low approval ratings and the leper-treatment he’s been getting from the White House, he’s certainly a soft target these days. But can’t his critics stick to his record without attacks on his physical appearance and unfounded claims about his health?

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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