The Sketch: A government fizzing with ideas? Just ask the people of Iraq

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The Independent Online

Ohhh, I see! It's the climax of an end-of-term communications strategy. All those things they've been doing recently (iPods for voting stands out) have been designed to show a government fizzing with ideas and purpose. They might have said. The crescendo of initiatives and projects and pilots and has come to a rousing climax with the PM coming back from Iraq to announce... hang on, what was it? "It is now right to complete the task we have set ourselves." That's new, is it? He also made a point of saying that Iraqis "must continue to make right long-term decisions". Jolly good, carry on.

That seemed to be the main thing, by weight of repetition, that the Prime Minister is, was and had been right, that the troop levels were right, that national reconciliation was right, that democracy was right, that electricity supplies, Basra airport, mentoring, access to water, these were all right things.

His celebration and tribute-paying and credit-giving, and trumpet-blowing was marred by muscular attacks from the Tories mainly, but also a blast from Adam Price (a lot of those ethnic MPs punch above their weight in the Commons). Why, in contrast to Barack Obama, did Brown get the judgement on Iraq so wrong, he asked. The initial decision, the difficulty of occupation, the savage and incalculable losses, the worst foreign policy disaster for 50 years. From the answer we deduced the PM had not been wrong at all, but right.

Andrew Robathan followed up with some fizzing of his own. Brown was "absolutely wrong" when he was considering an autumn general election to have gone to Iraq during the Tory conference to announce troop reductions for "naked reasons" of political calculation. But no, Gordon said that wasn't the case at all, that he was, in fact, right. The Territorial Tory Mark Lancaster said Brown made his "blood boil" with his "cynical political manipulation" and invited him to display "an ounce of courage". Gordon obliged by saying he had not only been right but that "I think he actually supports the actions we have taken". That was bold, at least.

It's worth pointing out that Gordon often ends up working from templates created by Tony Blair. Despite initial forays (being rude to George Bush, repudiating spin, abandoning market mechanisms... the list goes ever on) he returns firmly to type. Yesterday he tried Blair's most famous trick of inventing a new character for the occasion. It's a new, quiet, explanatory Brown drafted in to replace the bellowing megaphone man. It may chime better with these desperate times, but the man needs a new vocabulary to fit. "I was right" is not the text that goes with the character. Still, there's the rest of the summer to work it up.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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