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Public Affairs Top 10: Political Gaffes

Public Affairs Top 10: Political Gaffes

Written by Peter Jackson Eastwood & Emily Burditt

In honour of the end of Boris Johnson’s tenure as London Mayor – we are celebrating the capital’s favourite accident-prone politician with our top 10 political gaffes. Get behind the sofa folks…

  1. Ken Livingstone – EVERYTHING:

Referendum pandemonium. Cameron’s leadership and taxes under intense scrutiny. The Conservative Party bursting at the seams. Opportunity not just knocking on the door for Labour to really make a statement, but demolishing said door with a wrecking ball.

Step forward Ken Livingstone. He certainly made a statement, he made several in fact. And then he hid in a disabled toilet while the press shouted questions about Hitler through the door. Either Ken is the worst politician of all time, or the greatest Tory sleeper agent in history.


  1. David Cameron forgetting which football team he supports:

As we all know, Dave’s best characteristic is that he is a true man of the people. He loves a pint, he loves mucking in with the rest of us and he is always regaling his mate Jezza with classic banter in PMQ’s (Do up your tie Jez you bloody rascal!).

But shockingly, startlingly and appallingly, geezer Dave was caught out when talking about the footy (say it ain’t so?!). He implored a crowd to get behind his beloved West Ham, apparently completely oblivious to the fact that he is actually an Aston Villa fan. Not to worry Davey, we’ve all slipped up down the watering hole at some point – it’s just a shame this was during a televised speech in the middle of the day. Stick to politics.


  1. Dick Cheney accidentally shooting a man

Americans like guns. The right to bear arms (no family guy jokes please) is an integral element of their constitution and is often a crucial factor in presidential races. George Bush and his administration really liked guns (and explosives, and fighter planes, and tanks, and invasions, and wars, but let’s not get off track).

Given all of these facts, it’s really no surprise to know that former vice president Cheney shot a man…by accident. In events eerily similar to the invasion of Iraq, Cheney was trying to shoot a quail, but succeeded only in spraying lead into a 78-year-old Texas attorney’s face, neck and upper torso. The 78-year-old suffered a heart attack, but thankfully pulled through. For better or for worse, there is no footage of the incident.


  1. Boris Johnson: Anywhere Boris has ever been with a camera present:

Even if you are of the opinion that our glorious capital will not miss Boris’s policies, heavens above will we miss the gaffes, and he has had hundreds during his time as London Mayor (or ‘Operation Juddering Climax’). It’s almost impossible to narrow them down, but here are a couple of gems:

  • Boris providing a metaphor for his own mayor-ship of London by kitting himself out in full British attire, beginning his zip-wire journey in a wave of glory and excitement before getting stuck, achieving nothing but looking like a lovable plonker the whole while.boris zipwire
  • Boris picking the ball up deep, showing a lovely step and burst of acceleration to move towards the try-line and then utterly annihilating a tiny child who dared to get in his way. Bravo. And Boris has history with rugby tackles too… boris charging


  1. Simon Danczuk: 1966 – present.

Newton’s third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Here are two events that took place in 1966. Read into them what you will, but please retain the notion of ‘opposites’ as you do:

  • In the proudest moment in our nation’s sporting history, England defeated West Germany 4-2 and Bobby Moore held aloft the football World Cup (legend has it David Cameron was supporting France for this particular match).
  • Simon Danczuk, he of sexting a 17-year-old girl and generally doing his damnedest to embarrass the labour party fame, was born.


  1. Nick Clegg slagging off his shadow cabinet to Danny Alexander and being overheard by a journo

 A national newspaper editor recently described Nick Clegg as ‘one of the best communicators I have met in politics’. High praise indeed, and Clegg has always had a talent for conveying a message (then again – he has been blessed with some outstanding aides over the years). In this instance, the clarity of Clegg’s message didn’t do him much good.

As he slaughtered his frontbench team in conversation with Danny Alexander on a flight to London from Inverness, he was blissfully unaware of the journalist sat in the row in front of him. Steve Webb received a particularly vicious review: “He’s a problem, I can’t stand the man…useless.”

The power behind the throne...

PHA’s very own Tim Snowball

  1. Ed Milliband stars in “The Sor-Ed in the Stone”:

Ed Miliband seems like a thoroughly likeable chap but when it comes to dealing with the media he will never be as cool and composed as many of his counterparts. More Mr Bean than James Bond when on camera, it felt almost cruel watching the media tear strips off of him week after week.

That said, the Ed Stone really was unforgivable. Less Moses, more Oh God No-(ses). We could say that Ed’s campaign to become prime minister never recovered, but did it ever really get going? It was just one Milli-bad stunt after another.


  1. Neil Kinnock falling into the sea with his wife:

 I have to admit that I do like the concept behind this. It’s a golden picture opportunity. A politician and his wife, laughing and smiling as they walk across Brighton beach – they’re just like the rest of us!

Sadly, the execution is found wanting. Firstly, it’s bloody Brighton beach which means stones and volatile weather. Secondly, walking on the beach is not the same thing as walking backwards towards an oncoming wave. Sorry Neil, but you got exactly what you deserved. kinnock


  1. Nigel Farage resigning and un-resigning: 

Mr Farage – that poncy chap that everyone’s favourite footy hooligan Big Dave was talking about the other day – loves to talk about England and English values. And what does that invoke? St George? Knights? Honour and chivalry? Such laudable sentiments, I can almost feel my heart rising and Jerusalem ringing in my ears.

Perhaps this deeply-imbued spirit is what inspired Nigel to tender his resignation as UKIP leader after the election. This was the ultimate self-sacrifice, for the good of the party. Dear, brave Nigel! That is until he un-resigned three days later and carried on his merry way as UKIP’s commander-in-chief. Bizarre, embarrassing and a bit rubbish. farage



  1. When Gordon Brown revealed what he really thought of the electorate:

Ah, yet another Labour prime ministerial own goal – it’s almost as if they are actively doing everything in their power to ensure that they are never elected.

So, let’s break this one down – you have an image problem. It is also election time. Despite a reputation as a fiercely competent and experienced politician, you inspire little love from the British people. It’s time for a brand Brown revamp. You need to show your kinder, gentler side and gradually, maybe you can bring the public on side.

Sounds easy, right? Of course it does. Unless you’re Gordon Brown, in which case you call a little old lady a bigot and, just for good measure, make sure that someone records you doing it. There are PR own goals, and then there are PR own goals and as Dave would say: “That’s a three pointer!” gillian duffy