The Sketch: Co-operation, mutual support, respect. Damn.

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The Independent Online

They behaved rather magnificently in the end. This was a disappointment for the low creatures out there - you know who you are - who wanted to see Gordon Brown slap Tony Blair's face and burst into hot tears. Instead, they put on a very professional display of co-operation, mutual support and respect. We feared as much.

They behaved rather magnificently in the end. This was a disappointment for the low creatures out there - you know who you are - who wanted to see Gordon Brown slap Tony Blair's face and burst into hot tears. Instead, they put on a very professional display of co-operation, mutual support and respect. We feared as much.

Mr Blair was particularly convincing. This is his forte, after all. They were sat next to each other. Mr Blair patted the seat beside him to give Mr Brown more access to the dispatch box. It was a pat that said: "Come and sit at [or possibly on] my right hand".

Mr Brown didn't move. It was a moment of tension. Was he going to slam his papers on the table? Was he going to jump up stamping and scream and scream and scream till he was sick? He was not. He rose to the dispatch box and for almost 40 minutes favoured us with the single most boring piece of parliamentary rhetoric since a statutory instrument varied the incidence of VAT. Considering the Chancellor's record, the feverish context of the statement, and the multibillions he was splashing about, this ranks among his larger achievements.

The body language at least was masterly; it was so impressive as to be unreadable. It gave nothing away. The Prime Minister extended his long forearm and held on to his knee, fingers elegantly splayed. He did nodding and pointing and half a dozen "hear, hears!" He managed to look supportive without being sycophantic, proud without being proprietorial. When he laughed at Mr Brown's joke (another unwelcome development) he did so with the perfect balance of appreciation and reserve. It was brilliantly done. At one point he scratched his ear. But why? All I can say is: it worked.

Later, during Oliver Letwin's pretty good reply, they went into team-talk mode. They spoke to each other, and sometimes when the other one was silent.

Mr Brown laughed suddenly in that barking way he has and suddenly stopped, his face going all blank and internal as his enormous brain switched to another programme. They were both putting the bravest face on it (making four faces in all).

And what of his statement? He put it across in a measured, almost reasonable way, with none of the bombast, none of the swaying, roaring, baited-bear bullying he uses when he's feeling cheerful. And it was a speech that reached into every nook and cranny of our national - and indeed our personal - life. At one end he was teaching two-year-olds to read, at the other he was abolishing fuel poverty for pensioners by 2010. He was introducing free access to museums in order to double visits and then installing 160,000 care alarms for the elderly. As for better waste management by local councils - don't let's start. His spending review was First Lord of the Treasury in scope, but very much the second lord in its delivery.

People say the job of Prime Minister is too big for one person. The relationship between Mr Blair and Mr Brown has been so successful because it's given us two prime ministers. It is, in effect, a job share. So we get Mr Blair's broad brush, his large ideas, his strategic pronouncements, his impulsive initiatives to raise health spending to the European average - and we also get Mr Brown tidying up after him with his £1.4bn rising to £1.6bn by 2007-08 representing a 2.3 per cent annual average real terms increase over three years demonstrating a continuing commitment to social justice and economic stability in the Strategic Partnership at local and national levels (these words may not be in the right order).

The combination is essential; neither could do it without the other. They are the most productive and powerful combination in Western politics. And they are inextricably linked - like DNA, separate but dependent. As soon as they stop spiralling around each other, they'll both be lost and the Government will collapse; or maybe it's the other way round.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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