Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Does Gordon Brown really hear what you say?

Back in the early days of this blog, when the only readers were a few Newgate inmates and the Tavern cat, we put forward a suggestion that may, perhaps, bear repeating at this juncture, when Gordon Brown's behaviour is being minutely scrutinised by all.

For anyone with hearing loss, a dinner party is a refined form of torment, featuring constant background noise and the need to make polite responses to questions you have only half understood. This becomes far worse if, for some reason, you cannot admit to your deafness.

Now read Minette Marrin's description of Brown's behaviour at a dinner party - her evidence for describing him as 'a dangerous weirdo':
'At times he fixed a broad, exaggerated smile to his face, almost randomly it seemed, and directed it at someone, but he kept getting it wrong — the wrong moment to smile, the wrong person to smile at and occasionally the wrong place to smile at. When challenged by one guest on some difficult economic point, he kept baring his teeth in the opposite direction, at the lovely bosom of a guest on his other side who was not part of the conversation. He made me think of an android with faulty programming.'

Consider a man of dour temperament placed at a table where he must show he is entertained by the company but is unsure when and whether he has heard a joke - a table, moreover, surrounded by journalists and London chatterati whose collective sense of humour is almost entirely alien to a manse-born Scot.

Add to that the removal from his side of his wife and accomplice - a supportive dinner partner in the know can help effectively disguise a substantial hearing loss from the assembled company; all it takes is constant attentiveness and the ability to repeat relevant information without seeming to do so.

I don't say this is at the root of all Brown's behaviour - far from it, although it does help explain his well-documented habit of ignoring people when they speak to him (see the link above for other examples). It may, however, be an unconsidered factor in the complicated picture now emerging from Downing Street.


  1. You are spot on to raise the issue of deafness. One part of this tragedy is that many who suffer have great difficulty in coming to terms with it. There are other things that can affect people as well. Might GB have some dietary problem for which he has never been checked? Gluten? Dairy problems? Flavouring/MSG reactions? Too many people with such issues are told just IBS by doctors and have pills etc. chucked at them often with nasty side effects compounding the real problem.

  2. It may be both, Demetrius.

    Meniere's Disease, which affects roughly 1 in 1,000 people, causes unpredictable sporadic attacks of hearing loss and vertigo.

    Research suggests attacks can be triggered by food allergy; many sufferers have previously experienced migraines associated with common triggers such as red wine and cheese.

    The disease is incurable and progressive and often leads to permanent hearing loss in the later stages. It is well-documented that sufferers can become stressed and depressed.

    A coincidence, perhaps, that Brown was rumoured to be taking high doses of anti-depressants last year, as well as avoiding red wine and cheese.