Gordon Brown’s attempts to soften his image with a family pet for his young sons backfired yesterday as a canine spin operation went horribly wrong.
Downing Street had been planning to give the story of the Browns’ new dog to The Guardian, who were angry that The Times had recently been favoured with an exclusive about the Number 10 vegetable patch.
But the story of the latest Downing Street arrival leaked out via the website firstdogcharlie.com.
Last night Tory MPs were calling for an inquiry into Downing Street denials that that the dog photographed on the doggy website was the Browns’ chosen pet.
“There is no doubt this is the same dog as the one we now see Mr Brown parading around Downing Street,” said shadow attack dog Chris Grayling.
“The denial to firstdogcharlie.com calls into question the veracity of the whole Downing Street operation. We need to know who knew what when and who said what to whom why.”
Mr Brown said all his energies were focussed on the economy, Iraq and Afghanistan and saving the planet.
Far-fetched? Maybe. But not entirely.
Political reporters see everything through a prism. It changes according to mood and moment.
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For the moment, the mood around Barack Obama remains “can do no wrong”. Gordon knew that feeling for a while, when he took over from Tony Blair. Then it went around the time of the on-off election. It came back at the start of the economic crisis. It went again as the scale of the crisis became clear. He got a bit of it back at the G20. Now, for the next period at least, the prism will be defined by the departure of Damian McBride.
So, had the dog been British-Portugese not American-Portugese, and the timing now, the above news spoof may not be too far-fetched after all. As for the facts, for Brown read Obama, for Downing Street read White House, for sons read daughters, for Guardian read Washington Post, for Times read New York Times. For Firstdogcharlie.com, apparently, read Firstdogcharlie.com.
And the White House did claim that the dog pictured on it was not Bo, the Portugese water dog currently getting more media attention than any celeb, crisis or war, when clearly it was.
Trivial? Yes. But when the prism changes, the trivial can sometimes damage almost as much as the serious.
Speaking on The Antiques Roadshow last night David Cameron said “We were told the era of spin was over. Yet now we know that when Downing Street should be worrying about jobs, they care more about which paper gets the dog story and who gets the vegetable patch. I’m not just calling for an inquiry … Surely it is time for an election.”