There was a time when the ability to deal with a heckler was an essential skill in the kitbag of every politician. Election meetings were usually public affairs, and the response of the audience was far from predictable. The politician had to be prepared for almost anything, and have an ability to think on his (or her) feet. Someone would shout "What about the workers?", and the speaker would reply "This gentleman asks about the workers. Well let me tell him something about our policies ..." Handled well, it showed good humour, an ability to answer tough questions, and a working ability to remember policy detail and relate it instantly to real situations. Handled badly, it showed everyone you were not on top of your game.
Now that everything is done through the medium of television, that streetfighter skill is not in as much demand as before. But seeing how a politician deals with the unexpected still tells you a lot about them.
Today, all three party leaders faced unscripted interruptions to their careful plans. Cameron and Clegg were heckled in the street (no links yet, sorry), got slightly flustered, answered their questioners, and got back on with campaigning. Meanwhile, Gordon Brown was giving a speech to the party faithful (again) when a heckler interrupted. What happened next tells you all you need to know about Brown's lack of humour, flexibility and spontaneity and New Labour's knee-jerk control-freakery:
Note how he carries on reading from the autocue and maintains the weird grin. He says that "there'll be plenty of chances to answer his questions later" - not 'answer your questions', as if Brown will deliver his speech and leave, with questions picked up by junior assistants later on. The heavies bundle the guy out (why? he didn't look angry or threatening to me) and the event carries on. It showed that, to Gordon Brown, the script is everything, and nothing can be allowed that deviates from the plan.
I bet someone got it in the neck afterwards, though. "Who arranged that? Who allowed that to happen? Sue, I think. Ridiculous."
Just imagine how Cameron or Clegg would have dealt with it.
Edit: I've just noticed the carefully arranged doughnutting at the end. Five people, all young and well presented, and all clapping wildly, surrounding the smiling head of the Great Leader. The Kim Jong-Il school of crowd management.