Simon Carr: Two slick operators, and no hint of wrongdoing

Sketch: Brown told us how he had set about cleaning up the moral squalor he'd inherited
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The Independent Online

A tale of two chancellors, old and new, something borrowed, something blue. Both were up before Leveson one after the other to explain their crimes and many misdemeanours.

You may be relieved to know that neither Gordon Brown nor George Osborne have ever done anything wrong, anywhere or at any time. For Gordon it was "my religious upbringing". What is it for Osborne? His sympathy for "ordinary families, if I can call them that"? Probably.

Neither of these consummately political operators had ever paid any particular attention to News International. The Sun doesn't win elections, you see. What about Downing Street's acquisition of Andy Coulson? Counsel Jay asked the Mrs Merton question, but Coulson's wealth of News International connections were "not relevant". No, they'd probably have been a drawback.

And the appointment of Jeremy Hunt at the height of that unfortunate minister's Murdochmania? The Chancellor's solution to this was elegant and probably impregnable. Vince Cable in charge of the BSkyB bid had "declared war" on Murdoch. Should he be sacked, resigned or moved to another department – any of which would threaten the Coalition?

Osborne revealed it was the Cabinet Secretary (civil servant – impartial, non-political, a saint) who suggested the solution: moving this "politically inconvenient" bid to its logical home in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

George Osborne has his critics (350 million of them) but even they had a moment's grave silence while this sank in. He smiled in a pointy way and rocked his head from side to side around the smile. But when alone and sunk in thought, his face settled into a fierce glare.

As for Gordon? He had never been influenced by Murdoch. The phone call in which he'd threatened to "destroy" the man – he said on oath it "never took place". Murdoch said on oath it did. They can't both be lying.

Brown continued by telling us how he had set about cleaning up the moral squalor he'd inherited. He'd no idea what his aides Charlie Whelan and Damian McBride were up to. A plot to undermine the Prime Minister, Tony Blair? If he'd heard of any such thing he would have told the plotters "to desist".

So why did his wife continue in her complex embrace of Rebekah Brooks, who had just put the couple on the front of her newspaper with their sick son?

Gordon produced his admiring, indulgent chuckle (a lot of work in that): "Sarah is the most forgiving woman I know." But he also said: "I'd rather be an honest one-term prime minister than a dishonest two-term one." And that was beyond commentary.