Gordon Brown has likened himself to Heathcliff, the brooding, intense character in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights.
The Prime Minister is normally at pains to avoid being compared with other figures but his guard dropped in an interview with New Statesman, published today, in which the interviewer, Gloria De Piero, suggested to Mr Brown that many women viewed him as a Heathcliff-like figure.
Given that the character is famed for his vindictive side, the Prime Minister might have been expected to recoil in horror at such a comparison. But no. "Absolutely correct," he replied, before adding: "Well, maybe an older Heathcliff, a wiser Heathcliff."
Perhaps it is the character's passion that Mr Brown associates with. But, keen to correct any impression that he may be a tortured soul, he added: "I've tried to stop biting my nails. They're pretty good." Then, as he glanced down at his hands, he laughed and added: "OK, they're not."
Mr Brown used the interview as an opportunity to scotch rumours that the number of hours' sleep he is getting is declining in proportion to his opinion-poll ratings. He told the magazine that his sleep patterns varied, but that he got more than the four needed by Margaret Thatcher.
The Prime Minister also dismissed rumours that (like Heathcliff) he has a short fuse. "When you've got difficult decisions to make, you've got to be calm and considered," he said. '"I don't generally lose my temper." He also insisted that he would not be driven out of Downing Street before the next general election. "I'm here to do a job and I'll leave when I finish. I'm not here for the sake of being here."
Speculation is mounting that senior cabinet ministers will tell him this autumn to resign in order to give the party a chance of winning the next election. His survival prospects will fall if the party loses the Glasgow East by-election on 24 July. Describing being Prime Minister as "the best job in the world", he said: "You've got to be sure you're doing the right thing. You can't be deterred by people criticising you... If you believe in something strongly enough, you get on with it."
Mr Brown confirmed his frustration about the "theatre" of the weekly Prime Minister's Questions, as The Independent disclosed earlier this year. "The question is: does it help solve problems and illuminate the big issues...? There are big challenges ahead. You've got climate change, oil prices, terrorism and security and these rarely come up."
He also played down the latest gloomy predictions for the British economy. "I think the first thing people want us to be able to do is to see ourselves through this difficult challenge," he said. But he added that his ambitions extend far beyond that. "I want to build a Britain where every child has the opportunity to realise their potential. If you don't have young people whose talents are recognised and developed to the full, you're not going to have a successful society or a successful economy."Reuse content