...by which I don't mean frankspencer, the poster whose inevitable "I ended up fucking someone, ooh it was a bit naughty" message is either the delicious highlight or the trough of swill on b3ta.com's Question of the Week, depending on your point of view.
No, I mean the real Frank Spencer - well obviously not the real one, given that he's a fictional character, but you get the general idea. Richard Littletalent scribbled a while ago, comparing the 1970s "Hmm Betty" slapstick star with Gordon Brown, and in the process using the term 'moron' to describe them both. A little harsh, but much as it wouldn't make me shed a tear if I read on Ceefax that the Mail-chained gorblimeymeister had been impaled on the gates of his Florida mansion, there is a little merit in what he says. He's only happened upon the truth by chance, of course, but he's there nevertheless. Give a chimp with a box of Crayola the task of recreating Canaletto and he probably won't do it; but there's a microscopically small likelihood that he will. Similarly, Littleunderstanding does occasionally hit the nail on the head, even if he doesn't mean to.
The reason why I think we can compare Gordon Brown - not just Gordon, as you'll see - with Spencer is ably demonstrated by this the other day from Sunny over at Pickled Politics entitled 'Why getting out of Iraq may be a bad idea':
For anyone who thinks peace will suddenly descend on Iraq once the foreign forces leave may want to re-think that idea:
Hands up anyone in the world who thinks that. Anybody...? No...? No, of course not, though I don't think that was Sunny's point. He's concerned, as we all should be, with the prospect of Iraq becoming an 'even bigger warzone' (if and) when the Americans finally jump ship.
Which is where I bring in Frank Spencer, and in particular the episode which I think was entitled 'The Second Honeymoon' (did they even have titles? I'm not sure). Anyway, this episode is notable for two things: firstly, a splendid bit of did-all-his-own-stunts action from Michael Crawford, clinging onto the side of a train; and secondly, putting to bed the notion that Frank Spencer might ever have been gay, a moment when Frank meets an effeminate man in his hotel and walks off muttering "Mm, bit funny."
The plot is this (as I recall): Frank and Betty have gone away for their second honeymoon and end up in a reasonably ramshackle hotel somewhere in England. Moving the twin beds together, Frank tears the lino floor. But he doesn't stop there. You, I or anyone else would simply explain the problem to reception, get ticked off and maybe have to pay some reddies for the damage*. Frank tries to fix the problem, resulting in more torn lino, a damaged wardrobe, a decimated hotel room and, finally, him smashing through the ceiling into the restaurant below. It was the same in most episodes - Spencer never meant any destruction, but always ended up destroying buildings, cars and driving rational and decent people insane. He didn't mean to, but he just did. He never knew when to give up.
The moral of the story being, I think, that if you start fucking something up, you might not be able to fix it, and by attempting to fix it, you may fuck it up a lot more. Which brings me to Iraq. No-one in the world thinks that the withdrawal of American forces - if it ever happens, from the bases which have been built there since the invasion - is going to make things better. It probably won't make things stay the same. It may well make things worse. But the new president of America can't fix Iraq. And yes, the country may descend into oblivion, but that won't be a result of having left but having come there in the first place, and the result of policies dating back decades. Is it worth staying there to try and prevent a tragedy? Or is it arrogant to imagine that anyone can, or could?
So when I see the grinning physog of Gordon Brown popping over to see British troops at the weekend, talking about a war that looks like it's going worse than ever, I wonder if any hope of liberal intervention might be doomed. I don't think Brown is necessarily a warmongering type, and maybe he really thinks what we're doing in those countries is really working and really a force for good. And I wish it was. And I wish that such horrific crimes against humanity as youngsters strapping themselves to explosives and blowing up any targets, civilian or military, didn't happen. But they do, and I can't help wondering what good we're really doing being there, and whether we can stop such things from happening in the future, or whether we're really kidding ourselves with the arrogance of the West.
* Actually that's a lie. I'll confess now that when faced with this predicament I did a Spencer and got away with it. Having knocked a three-inch hole in the wardrobe of my hotel room in Portugal, I managed to fix it with strategic use of chewing gum, a torn drinks coaster and a pot of mascara. Which was a magical result. But I think the principle still stands true. I really wasn't playing the percentages there.