Simon Carr: The Sketch

Charming his way out of trouble - yet again
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Speaking slowly enough for those of us without shorthand and spelling out the longer words, the Prime Minister told us: "If you think I'm going anywhere, you're crackers. That is C-R-A-C-K-E-R-S." (I précis.)

At the very height of his charm, he presented his argument for continuing in office, analysed the opposition and his opponents, praised everyone (even the lefty plotters), and told us that Gordon Brown - "New Labour to his fingertips" - would valiantly continue the prime ministerial work. Bringing up the Chancellor's fingertips was particularly cunning (they're bitten down to the first knuckle). It's a pertinent reminder to his bench monkeys that the Chancellor is co-architect of New Labour. If the chumps and chimps think they'll be very much better off under Gordon they have a hilarious awakening in store.

The inaugural speech of King Solomon's son Rehoboam began: "My father chastised you with whips." The people leaned forward, deliciously anticipating a change of regime: "But I shall chastise you with scorpions!" Rehoboam Brown will be offering us health cuts, identity card debacles, rising taxes and lashing us with his scorpion's tail. It's not clear that the English will react well to this. Brown may be relying too much on our rumoured proclivity for recreational punishment.

And the idea of Brown dealing with a jackal-packed press conference in this quiet, amusing, courteous way is beyond imagining. The Prime Minister's first instinct is to answer a question with: "Where I agree with you is ..." before making the opposite point. He had a new one yesterday: "I think - and it's perfectly possible to take an alternative view - that ... " That construction simply doesn't feature in Gordon Brown's lexicon. Mr Brown answers questions in that autistic way he has: "No, the important point here is."

What will the Labour Party do when Blair goes and Brown's hectoring produces a slump in the polls? When we get sick of Blair he produces another Blair. When we get sick of Brown he just gets more like himself: more roaring, more bellowing, more of the scorpion's tail.

"How long do you want to go on?" the PM asked towards the end of the hour. "On and on and on," a Thatcherite wag called. "I think we'd better have a stable and orderly transition to lunch," he concluded, charm peaking.

PS: Beware. Blair is recasting the foreign prisoner scandal as a civil-rights question. He's saying he wants rapists to be deported while silly liberals argue against him. In fact, the Government did not try to deport foreign prisoners because they did not want them to claim asylum (the PM was cracking down on asylum-seekers).

PPS: It's quite unusual to have a prime minister and his deputy under investigation by the police at the same time, isn't it?