The Sketch: Brown's all alone with his Precious

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The Independent Online

"Oh, come off it!" Patrick Cormack scoffed at the PM during the Liaison Committee yesterday. That's a bit new, isn't it? I don't think we've seen the Prime Minister in all his capital glory being joshed and jostled like this before, certainly not by the courteous Cormack.

Did he notice? Oh, I think so. When Alan Beith started on the role of the Attorney General, Gordon made a number of unsatisfactory replies and on being pressed, said: "I don't think the microphones are working well enough in here." It was a joke, we realised. He was returning the joshing and jostling by suggesting he was having to repeat himself. But he was only repeating himself because he kept on answering a single question that wasn't being asked.

When he could, he waffled on without variation in pitch. His enemies might try to diagnose him as clinically depressed. But my theory is that Gordon is enjoying being Prime Minister more than anything he's ever done. It's lonely at the top, but that suits him just fine. He is alone with his Precious. What the public thinks hardly comes into it. Or indeed MPs.

So, back in the Liaison Committee he could claim government business is timetabled "by the will of Parliament" without changing expression when told he was talking balls. He just blinked, without emphasis. By that stage he may have gone to his happy place. As he waffled on harmlessly he was imagining himself in a multilateral conference hall surrounded by translators, aides and note-takers who listen attentively while he integrates a global enterprise response with a new tripartite, multi-agency regulatory regime.

It scarcely mattered that everyone in the committee was treating him the same way, friend and foe alike. Some got quite testy. But he was unmoved. Edward Leigh closed in on him demanding a "yes or no" answer to the DUP inducements on 42 days. Louise Ellman pounced on his suggestion that it was the Chancellor alone who'd be making the decision on fuel tax (he quickly withdrew the remark). Peter Luff practically accused him of dishonesty. John McFall called him Chancellor more than once. And everyone interrupted him to bring him back to the question they'd asked.

Interrupted him quite abruptly, saying, "No!" or "No, the question is!"

He'd say he wanted to put it in context and they'd say, "Oi! Less of that, mush!" Or words to that effect.

There was also a period in the middle of a long answer when the committee started talking among itself. That was also new.

Of course he might go on like this for two years. It's a marathon not a sprint (even a sprint with the PM feels like a marathon). But if this Glasgow by-election does go the wrong way and unseats him, it's hard to see that he'll be missed.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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