One of the things you miss from looking at papers on the internet is the overall effect that the composition of a page of news has on the reader. So it is today with page 4 of today’s Guardian. Here is a picture of it:
Of course, one cannot see from this the content of the stories, which are:
UN vote backs Brown’s call for action to end Darfur conflict (the picture is of my copy, which is a second edition and has presumably been updated for the final one)
PM recruits world leaders to Africa aid emergency
Charities criticise fall in bilateral payments
Of these, the latter is not so favourable, and is therefore left to languish down at the bottom of the page. Overall, loosely categorising the page into being for or against the notion that Gordon Brown has left the international diplomacy scene generally reeling in the wake of his thrusting efforts on behalf of the world’s poor and suffering, we could characterise the page as follows:
(I have made the picture “pro” because Brown looks very statesmanlike and is stood near a big union jack.) Later on, today’s star comment piece is Jonathan Freedland’s “More bulldog than poodle, Brown has signalled a new special relationship”.
We are to believe that Gordon Brown has jetted off to the US, had a “full and frank” discussion with President Bush, secured Britain’s right to withdraw from Iraq before the US, twisted Bush’s arm into signing up to his resolution on Darfur as well as signing on to his declaration on the Millennium Development Goals, before sweeping by the senate to keep them on board, finally pitching up at the UN to knock the world’s collective head’s together in support of the initiative he “hammered out” with President Sarko not two weeks before, all before swooping off home without even waiting to hear the result of the vote, so confident was he of the result (it was unanimous, you will be glad to hear). Perhaps he wrestled a bear when he got home, too.
Am I the only person who thinks this not a little bit overspun? Well, lets take a look at the other papers: The Times is notably cooler, taking a full 3 paragraphs before it mentions Brown in its report. The Indy is probably the fairest in its assesment of Brown’s role in the matter. The Telegraph is… stultifyingly boring about the whole thing.
Of course, you might say that our national serious press has its own political agenda on Brown, and you might be right. So lets look further afield. The Washington post doesn’t mention Brown at all, and includes the interesting paragraph:
The Security Council vote ended months of negotiations led by Britain, France and the United States and involving China, Russia and Sudan. The Sudanese U.N. envoy spent much of the weekend editing the text at the British mission to the United Nations.
Months, eh? How long has Brown been here again?
The New York Times gets 450 words in before it mentions him or Britain. The LA Times is similar. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung gives them hardly a mention (enjoy Google Translate‘s bizarre attempts with some of these, by the way). Die Welt gives them no mention at all. El Pais, El Mundo, Le Monde, The Australian, al Jazeera, are all similar. Most, if they mention Britain or Brown at all, do so only to quote Brown’s threat that “I and others will redouble our efforts to impose further sanctions” if Khartoum don’t behave themselves.
But no, the Guardian tells us this is “Gordon Brown’s first foreign policy victory”. Now, generally, I quite like the Guardian. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that when it comes to getting on board with somebody’s political spin, there are few more ready to do so when it suits them. A few months ago, it was moving heaven and earth to tear Brown down. Today, Brown was some sort of international superhero.