What terrific form Gordon Brown is in; he keeps on making this joke. It's about research papers (I can hear geeks laughing from here: geek laughter travels in strange ways). Twice this week the Chancellor has said that one of his Treasury documents hadn't been pulled off the internet, that it wasn't a PhD thesis, and that no one had sexed it up. It's pretty heavy-handed, as teasing goes. Do you slap your cancer-ridden friend on the back and jovially remark on the weight he's lost?
It made Mr Brown laugh, at least. He spent yesterday chuckling, roaring, bellowing, pointing, patting the cowlick into place on his forehead, throwing his bullocky body round the dispatch boxes in an astonishing display of confidence and energy - if anyone can lose the next election it will be him. But only if he's leading his party into it.
Questions to him yielded some useful data. Mr Brown said something that may have been both true and useful. That is entirely unprecedented in the history of the House of Commons. He announced the Conservative plans for health vouchers would cost £1bn. Rather a bargain, don't you think? When extra money is being sluiced into the NHS at the rate of £9bn a year, one miserable billion to introduce a real functioning market into the health seems extraordinarily good value for money (no letters please).
Howard Flight gave us some extra geek ammunition. The Office of National Statistics reported that public spending had gone up 9 per cent in the year to March, yet there was only a 2.5 per cent increase in the value of services delivered. Vouchers, on this information, would pay for themselves.
I happen to know you can get hip replacements and two weeks of in-house physio in Germany for slightly less than the NHS tariff (yes, flights included). There would be no reason for pensioners to pay, were they given a voucher and were prepared to shop around.
Mr Brown returned to give us his further thoughts on joining the euro. How he has developed a reputation as a Eurosceptic is no more astonishing than how he has maintained it. The man is a yodelling euro hooligan. He has been the Government's most consistent supporter of the single currency. I'm sure this is true even though he says he is himself. The only reason we doubt it is that Number 10 tries to persuade us it's true.
Yesterday, Mr Brown laid out the strenuous efforts he is proposing to promote convergence with the euro-zone. These will build on his achievements in wrecking our funded pension system, choking us with red tape and lifting our fantastically wasteful public spending to European averages. The single most significant contributor to convergence, it seems, will be the Brown-induced housing market crash which will drive down home ownership to the level at which we just don't care about interest rates any more. It's a masterful piece of work
Michael Howard called Mr Brown's euro report a "ludicrous compromise that makes no sense at all except to appeal to the narrow partisan interests of a faction-ridden cabinet". That was so rude it was probably true.Reuse content