Matthew Norman: Isn't it time Gordon Brown was put out of his misery?

Everything this reverse Midas touches turns to plutonium

Thursday 29 October 2009 01:00

If somebody were to hand the noted primate hunter AA Gill a high-velocity rifle, and say to him "Adrian, you see that slightly simian figure over there, yes, the Prime Minister...", would anyone be horrified when the shot rang out and the creature slumped to the ground?

Well, I suppose it would be a blow to Sarah, and presumably the Metropolitan Police would have to show an interest. But for tens of millions of people the overwhelming emotion would be relief, as much on his behalf as their own. It is astonishing how often you hear this fantasy voiced. In the last two days I've heard it three times. "Someone ought to shoot him," one friend precisely echoed the other two yesterday, "and put him out of his misery. It just isn't right to let this go on."

There wasn't a scintilla of malice in this, but there seldom is when people talk about the mercy-killing of Gordon Brown. The loathing induced by Tony Blair is absent. With Gordon, there's a measure of perplexity, a dash of anger and a heavy twist of disdain, but the base of the cocktail is embarrassed pity.

Watching the wounded beast flailing, death rictus spreading over face and carrion crow gathering overhead, has become too painful to watch. We've been through Shakespearean tragedy, done farce both high and low, lingered over the surreal, and resurrected satire from its Kissinger-Nobel burial ground time and again. All we want now is for this horribly macabre spectacle to stop.

The humiliations assault him with such ceaseless regularity that it's a struggle to keep pace. From recent days alone I count four. There is, for instance, the pitiable vista of Gordon openly pressing the claims to EU presidency of someone he described, to his own face, as utterly untrustworthy. If and when Mr Blair becomes Mr Prez, this will represent Gordon's ultimate eclipsing by his old foe. Yet here the poor turkey is, in utter thrall to Lord Mandelson for keeping him in office, urging fellow EU leaders to vote for Christmas.

Infinitely worse was the shock news that the British economy contracted yet further in the third quarter, ridiculing assurances that it would by now be back in growth. Gordon's mantra that Britain was uniquely well-placed to withstand the global slump has boomeranged and smacked him the temple, which certainly was anticipated, and the last slivers of his economic credibility have been cauterised.

The surrender over cutting Territorial Army funding, meanwhile, was a classic of Brownian incompetence. Having contrived a fabulously stupid idea – picking a fight with the army to save a measly £20m is like mugging Vera Lynn for a 10p piece – he then exacerbated the damage by retreating not in one clean manoeuvre, but in two messy ones. If Gordon had a flag, it would be a cream cross on a beige background.

And so to the latest on MPs' expenses. Here the pity reaches its zenith, because whereas being under permanent house arrest with Lord Mandelson as jailer is one thing, being Sir Stuart Bell's prisoner over expenses is another.

This so-called "shop steward of MPs" is quite a card, and I have before me one of the books of which he admits authorship. About another he is more reticent, as we'll see, but Sir Stuart has the vanity to be proud of Tony Blair Loves Me (SpenView Publications, £6.99; Sir Stuart was born, by sheerest happenstance, in the Geordie mining village of High Spen). This masterpiece of futile ingratiation captures the essence of the New Labour backbenches exquisitely. "Tony," begins the open letter he uses as introduction, written to mark the 1997 victory, "You have not written your name on water but in the history books, not because of time and place ... but because you built New Labour on the traditions and values of the old; you built the future on to the past in the present.

"It falls to few to have such a vision ... by being the first Tony Blair rather the second anyone-else, you have earned the right to be where you are today. You have a right to be here, to savour this moment, to marvel at it ..." But no more. If the missing anti-emetics turn up perhaps we'll sample the comparisons with Churchill and Keats another time.

Having inexplicably failed to bring this long-term shadow trade minister into his government, Mr T consoled his disciple with the crucial parliamentary post of Church Estates Commissioner, regardless of the Francophile Sir Stuart's pornographic novel Paris, 69 (the one he's not quite so keen to mention). If you're squeam, or even just squeamish, turn the page now.

"And she keeps on sucking, sucking and nibbling and filling me with yearning, with desire to thrust her back on the bed now, strap her to it the way the schoolteacher had shown me," runs a memorable passage. "I wanted that she be tied to the bed and I dominate her, rape her, burst inside her and be cleansed."

Enchanting stuff from a most remarkable man of God. I quote it less to aid the digestion of your breakfast egg than to hint at the quality of the leader of the resistance to Christopher's Kelly attempts to end the practices of MPs building property portfolios and employing family on the taxpayer. Sitting on the Members Estimate Committee, Sir Stuart fought long and hard to obscure the issue from public gaze, and has predictably strong feelings about Sir Christopher's ambitions. "I don't think the House would accept any enforced redundancies of present staff," he declares.

Sir Stuart speaks with authority, even though he no longer employs kith and kin so far as I'm aware. He did once hire his son as a researcher, and jolly hard young Malcolm worked too until his conviction for stealing cheques from George Galloway's office, using one to buy himself an Egyptian figurine for £1,788.

Whether Sir Stuart is the ideal person to defend the employment of relatives, who shall say? But strive mightily to ignore the Kelly recommendations our noble MPs naturally will. And the man who will pay the heaviest price for that, of course, is Gordon Brown, who has one-16th of the authority over his MPs exercised by John Major in his dog days, and who takes the rap for every fresh expenses-related folly.

In one sense, this is unfair. What no one doubts about Gordon, unlike his predecessor and likely future President, is his probity and uninterest in personal enrichment. However, from the YouTube hilarity to the appointment of Thomas Legg and Kelly, who so drolly failed to do the whitewashing expected, he has handled expenses with the deftness lavished on TA cutbacks, the release of the Libyan bomber, the 10p tax rate, biscuits and so much else during these last 30 months.

Gordon is the Sadim of global politics, everything this reverse Midas touches turning straight to plutonium. There is no point asking how much more radiation sickness he can take. Endurance of suffering is the one strength he has left, and no disaster or torrent of them will send him to his study with the Glenlivet and trusty Luger now. But it isn't pretty to watch, and it feels immoral that it should continue. Killing a healthy baboon is a very different proposition, as his Cabinet still has a little time to appreciate, from mercifully ending the political life of an ailing buffoon.

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