Politics: Brown gets serious over soaring pound

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GORDON Brown yesterday dropped his dour image and emerged as the cheerful Chancellor, describing life next door to the Blairs in Downing Street, writes Colin Brown.

Mr Brown said there was the sound of Oasis, guitars gently strumming, and French lessons from his next door neighbours. "And this is before you hear the kids come home," he said.

The Chancellor also joked at a press gallery luncheon at Westminster about the faxes sent to ministers by Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's official spokesman, warning them to stop briefing the press.

"He did send me a fax reminding me about Budget purdah. He said I couldn't speak about a number of things - I shouldn't mention Murdoch and the press, spin doctors, and I wasn't to overshadow today's story. I had to speak briefly because I didn't want any psychological flaws to be revealed.

"He said I should spend some time on the big picture ... but that is difficult because Derry Irvine has commandeered them."

But the one thing Mr Brown said he could not joke about was the euro. With the pound rising, and jobs being threatened, that is no laughing matter.