Page last updated at 12:13 GMT, Thursday, 10 July 2008 13:13 UK

I'm an older Heathcliff, says PM

'Come down from dithering heights'

Gordon Brown has said it is "absolutely correct" to compare him to Heathcliff - the brooding, romantic anti-hero of Emily Bronte's novel Wuthering Heights.

In a New Statesman interview the prime minister was told: "Some women say you remind them of Heathcliff."

He replied: "Maybe an older Heathcliff, a wiser Heathcliff."

He said unlike Heathcliff, he did not "generally" lose his temper. But Bronte expert Ann Dinsdale said the character was actually "not an ideal role-model".

Lover's remains

In Wuthering Heights, published in 1847, Heathcliff is an embittered, violent figure who treats most others with cruelty and contempt and who may have been a killer.

Sir Cliff Richard playing Heathcliff
Moor the merrier: Sir Cliff played Heathcliff in the 1990s
Ms Dinsdale, collections manager of the Bronte Parsonage Museum at Haworth, West Yorkshire, told the BBC: "The thing about Heathcliff is he turned to domestic abuse, possibly committed murder and certainly dug up the remains of his dead lover.

"Is this the role model we want for our own prime minister?

"There's this romanticised gloss that's come from film versions of Heathcliff. When you look at the books he's not an ideal role model."

Elsewhere in the interview Mr Brown laughed off suggestions he had a bad temper saying: "When you've got difficult decisions to make, you've got to be calm and considered. I don't generally lose my temper."

Stage musical

Heathcliff is a character who has continued to fascinate in the 161 years since Wuthering Heights first went on sale.

Laurence Olivier and several other leading actors have played him on screen.

And, during the 1990s, Sir Cliff Richard - a friend of Mr Brown's predecessor Tony Blair - played him in a stage musical.

British director John Maybury is reportedly planning to make a new film version of Wuthering Heights.

Mr Brown did not have to wait long to hear reference to Heathcliff in the House of Commons.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne called for an early U-turn on car tax plans, adding that it was time for "Heathcliff to come down from dithering heights".

Conservative leader David Cameron, responding to Mr Brown's statement on the G8 summit, said: "I am sure I speak for the whole country when I say I am pleased to see Heathcliff come home."

And Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg also got in on the act, urging Mr Brown not to allow the G8 as an institution to "die a death like Heathcliff, a man ranting and raving about a world he could no longer understand or change".

Brown has 'true grit' says Harman
09 Jul 08 |  UK Politics
Appeal to trace early Bronte film
07 Nov 05 |  Entertainment
Female Heathcliff for modern Heights
28 Mar 02 |  Entertainment

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