The Sketch: Deal or no deal, are we still expected to believe the PM?

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The Independent Online

Here's a glimpse inside Downing Street from a couple of months ago.It is Gordon Brown complaining to a fellow cabinet minister his officials had let him down by not getting him – as he had wished – to the Lisbon Treaty ceremony in time to sign alongside other European leaders. It wasn't his fault, you see. He wanted to be there. (Pause for reflection.)

Frankly, I'd feel more comfortable if he was chuckling wickedly at what people were expected to believe these days. But it may well be how he now explains it to himself. So it is with 42-days detention. "It's a matter of principle," he says to himself, and indeed to the world. "There were no deals offered." What does "no deals" mean? It can't mean that no deals were offered, surely.

Why was the DUP ensconced in the PM's office minutes before the vote? What matters of principle could they be discussing with no outcome beyond their vote?

"I was not party to any deal," the PM insisted during his press conference. It was his least plausible remark since swearing he would have still called off last autumn's election if he was winning in all the key marginals. But he can't have been lying. As this column maintains, politicians don't lie. As Gordon himself said yesterday, the truth "always comes out anyway". So maybe we'll find it is the Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward who has brokered the deal, and that in the PM's eyes, it wasn't a deal. No, it was the result of a pre-existing medium-term strategy to give more operational decision-making to regional MPs.

"I do not offer deals on terrorism," he said. No one laughed. So he needn't have kept telling us to "to take terrorism seriously". He means, incidentally, that we should take him seriously.

"I regret the fact that other parties do not see the need to act on terrorism." The Conservatives "will regret it". They're soft on terror, you see. They actively want suicide bombers in Britain. He's trying the idea out to see how it sounds. If it works, he may set about believing it. So it's not his integrity under question, but his sanity.

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