July 10, 2008 / 2:40 PM / 10 years ago

Brown courts ridicule with Heathcliff comparison

LONDON (Reuters) - Gordon Brown has drawn ridicule after he compared himself to Heathcliff, the tormented anti-hero of Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights.”

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has agreed that there are parallels between himself and Emily Bronte's tormented anti-hero Heathcliff. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Brown — frequently referred to as a dour Scot who lacks people skills — spoke about his sleep patterns and nail-biting habit in an interview with New Statesman magazine. He also conversed with young voters on YouTube.

But it was the Heathcliff part that stuck.

When his interviewer said Brown reminded some women of Heathcliff, the prime minister answered: “Absolutely correct — well maybe an older Heathcliff, a wiser Heathcliff.”

Heathcliff wandered the Yorkshire moors, tortured by the ghost of his lost love Cathy, and ended his life a broken man.

Some mischievous MPs suggested the ghost tormenting Brown was that of his predecessor and old rival, Tony Blair.

One newspaper commentator renamed the epic novel “Dithering Heights” after Brown’s comment, in reference to his perceived indecisiveness over whether to call an election shortly after taking office last year.

Conservative MP Theresa May said Brown needed to be clear about which of Heathcliff’s characteristics he shared. “Prone to domestic violence and kidnapping? Moody and unkind to animals?” she asked in parliament.

In a separate chat with young voters via YouTube, a youth called “Jazza” asked Brown to sell himself to the public.

“Jazza, that’s a great question,” Brown said, smiling, before reverting to his characteristic earnest demeanour.

“My idea in life, why I get up in the morning is that everyone should have a chance to make the most of their talents.”

Some Labour politicians are wondering whether Brown is making the most of his.

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