The Sketch: Not flash, just Gordon. And that's the problem

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It's been all summer since we've seen the Prime Minister in action. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Have we been too hard on him? Decent fellow doing his job in an unspectacular way? Not Flash, just Gordon?

He's the master of the detail, with his £50 here and up to £25 a week there if it gets cold. Moving to direct debit is prudent, he reminded us. Let us not forget the booklet and the telephone hotline. It's also a long-term solution. That can't be bad.

But he didn't tell us that his plan provides a superb opportunity for people to pay their bills this winter. A £1bn public subsidy to insulate houses provides a one-way stock market bet. Those who can't get their houses done should buy shares in insulation companies. But poor people don't have cash to invest? They can buy on the margin like the rest of us. They should talk to their brokers.

To be balanced, though, let's look at the negative side. While telling us he wasn't going to impose a windfall tax on the energy companies, he announced he's extracting £900m from them by a special Act of Parliament. What's not a windfall tax about that?

As with much of what the PM says, we find ourselves mired in sludge. He daren't be clear for fear of offending either the unions or the Daily Mail. He's timid, the poor fellow, that's why he won't enter the argument.

So how many people will be able to take advantage of the scheme? And how do we know energy companies won't just claw it all back in increased charges? And why not impose a windfall tax, in fact? There was no answer, just assertions that what he was doing was "fair" and "the right thing". Nothing but sludge.

He's frightened of laying out the case. He doesn't want to involve us in an argument in case he loses. It's an essential, deep-down timidity that makes him rely on these assertions that he is right all the time. That's why he can't command the attention of the electorate.

The not being flash isn't the problem. It's just Gordon.