Simon Carr: Johnson sparkles as Brown crumbles

Sketch: The Prime Minister marches forward like one of those hostile statues in a Tomb Raider film
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The Independent Online

Alan Johnson has become so energised by sacking that drugs official that he's become quite electable. He bounces. He punches. His eyes sparkle. And what are people saying?

"You've got it. Whatever you've said in public about not being good enough, and not wanting it, and being out of your depth, and not having the self-confidence – you've got it, mate." That, at any rate, is what the weird adviser in his shaving mirror tells him every morning now.

Maybe modern prime ministers need to be obviously lacking in the ability to do the job. The work is too much for any individual. There needs to be two of you, like those twins who run Poland. Or like the Milibands might do for us.

But if, like Johnson, you were clearly inadequate, you'd have to rely on your cabinet. If you gave the impression of being big enough to handle it by yourself you'd become Gordon Brown.

He is amazing, the stamina of the man, marching forward as parts fall off his crumbling structure, like one of those hostile statues in a Tomb Raider film. It's true he has started to make little jokes, but they are the jokes that a hostile Tomb Raider statue would make.

But he also says those silly things that can be shown not to be true. Cameron had him for saying that Britain is best placed to weather the recession. Last year it was going to be all over by this July. In June, we were "leading the world out of recession". Now, it's: "We always said we'd be out by the end of the year."

Brown won't back down on that, and Cameron will keep coming back to it with increasing intensity, blasting bits of rock out of the vast, stumbling edifice.

On a lighter note, Cameron asked about Brown's support for Blair getting the top EU job.

The campaign had gone wonderfully well, Cameron said, until Brown entered the fray to give it his full backing – proving that "no cause was truly hopeless until it is endorsed by this Prime Minister".

Gordon swung his stone sword. "He never asks about policy!" Then it was the Tory position on Lisbon. Cameron was scornfully quoted as saying: "I will give a cast-iron guarantee for a referendum on [the] Lisbon Treaty!"

Instantly the Tories were roaring and pointing and bellowing – for it was indeed the Government's own cast-iron manifesto guarantee to give a referendum on Lisbon.

As an aside, it may not have been Gordon's lamentable intervention that doomed Blair. It's hard to think of anything less likely to appeal to EU leaders than David Miliband's endorsement on the basis of Blair's motorcade factor, his ability to stop traffic. "Wot, so he'll be more important than all of us?" Honestly, David, as our PM said: "Get real."

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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