When a politician is seen kissing babies, you know exactly what’s going on. Yet the meeja have a bit of a soft spot for that, and give them an easy ride.
By contrast, when Gordon Brown invited Margaret Thatcher to Downing Street, the chattering classes decided he’s cynically exploiting her for party political advantage, and have been pretty merciless.
But … hang on a minute … Mrs T is not a baby, she’s a grown (though now old) woman, and an extremely capable politician. Not just that: she’s surrounded by advisors. When she accepts an invitation from Mr Brown, she’s giving (highly) informed consent to the event, and all it implies.
Brown must be doing something right, when his critics latch on to a non-issue like this to cry wolf about. That could in itself be a motive for the meeting: a war of attrition on the credibility of his critics. But that won’t have escaped Mrs T. And of course both of them are conscious of the context of unrest at the TUC conference, and her history with the unions.
One or both of them may have made a mistake. But exploitation it ain’t!