Thursday, July 10, 2008


BBC Gordon Brown has said it is "absolutely correct" to compare him to Heathcliff - the brooding, romantic anti-hero of Emily Bronte's novel Wuthering Heights. In a New Statesman interview the prime minister was told: "Some women say you remind them of Heathcliff."

He replied: "Maybe an older Heathcliff, a wiser Heathcliff."

He said unlike Heathcliff, he did not "generally" lose his temper. But Bronte expert Ann Dinsdale said the character was actually "not an ideal role-model".

In Wuthering Heights, published in 1847, Heathcliff is an embittered, violent figure who treats most others with cruelty and contempt and who may have been a killer.

Ms Dinsdale, collections manager of the Bronte Parsonage Museum at Haworth, West Yorkshire, told the BBC: "The thing about Heathcliff is he turned to domestic abuse, possibly committed murder and certainly dug up the remains of his dead lover.

"Is this the role model we want for our own prime minister?"

Heathcliff is a character who has continued to fascinate in the 161 years since Wuthering Heights first went on sale. . .

Mr Brown did not have to wait long to hear reference to Heathcliff in the House of Commons.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne called for an early U-turn on car tax plans, adding that it was time for "Heathcliff to come down from dithering heights".

Conservative leader David Cameron, responding to Mr Brown's statement on the G8 summit, said: "I am sure I speak for the whole country when I say I am pleased to see Heathcliff come home."

And Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg also got in on the act, urging Mr Brown not to allow the G8 as an institution to "die a death like Heathcliff, a man ranting and raving about a world he could no longer understand or change".

Megan Lane BBC News Magazine If Gordon Brown thinks he is Heathcliff, then who is his Cathy? A tormented ghost, tapping on a storm-lashed window, pleading to be let in. One hopes, for Sarah Brown's sake, that she hasn't cast herself in this role. Ditto his deputy PM, Harriet Harman. . .

Commentators have long likened the Prime Minister to Emily Bronte's anti-hero, but for the first time he has agreed with the comparison in an interview with New Statesman magazine. . .

"It seems as if he is floundering and is grabbing onto a strong, granite-jawed character that someone's suggested to him," says psychologist Angela Mansi, of Westminster Business School.

"People like to identify themselves with a character when they lack a sense of their core identity. This is happening more and more as we give too much away about ourselves and try too hard to please others.". . .

Ronald Reagan liked to compare himself to Rambo, the blockbuster of 1985. Not long after the film's release, 39 American hostages were freed in Lebanon. "After seeing Rambo last night, I know what to do next time this happens," the president joked. . . .

Perhaps it is the rather more sympathetic film version of Heathcliff that Mr Brown is thinking of - Timothy Dalton, perhaps, or Richard Burton - rather than the unpleasant piece of work in the novel. . .

To see oneself as a favourite character is quite childlike, says Ms Mansi, and role-play is a valuable part of a small child's development. . . ."But if she's still doing that by age 12, you might worry. To be doing it as an adult shows a lack of a sense of self."

Guardian UK The papers have predictable fun with Gordon Brown's admission in a New Statesman interview that it would be "absolutely correct" to liken him to Heathcliff, the anti-hero of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.

The consensus is that Brown might want to re-read the book. As Andrew McCarthy of the Bronte Parsonage Museum tells the Telegraph: "Heathcliff is a man prone to domestic violence, kidnapping, possibly murder, and digging up his dead lover . . . is this really a good role model for a prime minister?"

The Independent takes a similar line, saying Heathcliff "may have been impersonated on screen by beetle-browed hunks from Laurence Olivier to Ralph Fiennes, but he's still a 24-carat bastard".

Vince Cable of the Lib Dems has perhaps the best line, reprinted in many papers: "[Healthcliff] ended his life a broken and tormented man haunted by a ghost. Tony Blair perhaps?"

Over on the Telegraph website's Your View section - usually not a place for the faint-hearted - they're on surprisingly witty form when asked for a better comparison. Basil Fawlty, says one poster. Another goes for Columbus: "He didn't know where he was going when he set off, he didn't know where he was when he got there and he didn't know where he had been when he got back."


At July 10, 2008 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least the Brits are sufficiently well-educated to discuss a non-issue with elaborate eloquence. Compare it to the two scientifically illiterate Dallas County Commissioners (both African Americans) who took offense when a white Commissioner referred to a county office, infamous for losing paperwork, as a "black hole".


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