OPINION: Labour top brass display ill grace in defeat

The BBC's Sunday AM programme at the weekend opened with presenter Andrew Marr rejoicing that the speeches of new London mayor Boris Johnson and the defeated Ken Livingstone were so respectful of one another.

The Prime Minister, who was doing the rounds in an attempt to show it was business as usual, was asked about the result. He launched into a rant about Livingstone's campaign and how well he had performed. A slightly irritable Marr asked again: 'What do you think of Boris?' Gordon Brown looked like he might combust, then managed a few words about the Tories' impressive 'salesmanship'.

He could have said: 'It was a tough fight, Boris won and the Government will work with him for London and the Olympics.' Would that have been so hard? Would it have made him look soft? No - it would have given this Prime Minister in meltdown an ounce of grace. What would Tony Blair have done?

In the lead-up to the election, Hazel Blears - in a bid to connect with delegates - shrieked at a party conference: 'The last thing London needs is an upper class twit for its mayor.' Having played the class card, Blears beamed as her comrades whooped.

Would it be OK for a Tory shadow cabinet member to appear on stage and spit out accusations of distaste for a 'working-class oik'? No - and David Cameron would sack them immediately. Put any word before twit - Irish, black, Jewish, Scottish - and it would be seen as wrong, so why can a hall full of right-on Labour delegates think it acceptable?

Manners are paramount. It may be amusing to see Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton verbally knocking each other in the US primaries. But whoever wins, they have both offered congratulations with dignity. Albeit through all-American, dazzling-white clenched teeth.

The present cabinet is lacking in courtesy in a way not witnessed for years. I'm reluctant to chastise my own sex, but this election proved that the female members of Brown's cabinet have even less charm than their melancholy leader.

How much better would Alan Johnson have coped with defeat than the soulless Harriet Harman? Yvette Cooper displayed her usual thin-lipped bristle. The only woman who vaguely kept it together was Tessa Jowell, who banned her colleagues from using the name Boris, saying it made him appear 'friendly'.

On Friday evening she became increasingly aware she was going to be working very closely with 'Mr Johnson'. She can only hope Boris affords her the goodwill she was so unwilling to offer him.

Tara Hamilton-Miller is a political adviser and a former press officer at Conservative Campaign HQ

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