The Sketch: Want to see Gordon grin? Just keep asking Tony to tell the truth

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The Independent Online

These are serious events, these poster launches; they make serious statements about serious matters in a serious manner. Obviously, they don't want sketch writers turning up. Writers generally are suspect. Ideally, you don't want writers there at all.

Labour wouldn't say when or where their event was to be held, or even if there was an event. That morning a press officer said: "Er ... a poster launch? I'll get someone to call you. I haven't heard anything about a poster launch." The lying hound! I say that admiringly. It's a daring press strategy, to have a press launch without the press. That's how to avoid critical coverage. What works, you see - that's the important thing in politics.

At the previous poster parade, they'd had models as visual aids. Two came as wigged 18th-century aristocrats to underline a proposition about the longest period of economic growth for 200 years. Deft wasn't the word.

The latest poster warns that Tories will make £35bn of cuts in public services. It's in the form of a giant parking ticket; but where was the traffic warden in a miniskirt to drive the point home? It seemed a little flat without a visual aid in a miniskirt. Alan Milburn would have had visual aids, but he had been relegated to the B-launch of pensions and transport. No, the only visual aids were Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. And to cover it, just one or two journalists. The press office's no-press strategy had worked brilliantly.

Unfortunately, one of the journalists was ITV's Nick Robinson, who isn't as cuddly as he looks. With the field to himself, he pursued the Prime Minister in a single line of questioning. That is extremely rare. It was also extremely funny. The person who found it funniest was Gordon Brown. You rarely see a genuine smile in politics. Mr Brown struggled to suppress his, but eventually he gave in and let it beam. It was like the sun coming out.

Nick said: "Why do you persist in misrepresenting your opponents' policies? You know they are saying they will increase spending but at a slower rate?"

"Actually, that is not what they're saying," the Prime Minister started, speaking more quickly to bring off the semantic three-card trick we now know so well.

"You can't cut money that hasn't been spent," Nick said. "You're alleging they'll make cuts. But now you're saying they'll spend less. The words are different!"

"They're not different," the Prime Minister said urgently, stepping across Gordon's grin. What a hound he is, our Prime Minister, when he's on form.

What he says may not be true but that's not important. What is important is what works.

But - you could see the scary thought scribbling itself across the PM's forehead - what if it doesn't work any more? The very same thought was driving Mr Brown's delighted smile.

Simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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