Brown is very lucky to have a friend in Piers Morgan. He did him a great service in the ITV interview tonight – and while it would have made CoffeeHousers nauseous (if they watched it), it will be the best television the PM will get this year and probably ever. Mark my words: the Labour Party will not produce anything that shows Brown in such a sympathetic light. It was powerful, I’d say, because it was not party political propaganda: Morgan genuinely likes Brown and did his utmost to project the human side of him.
Those hours of coaching from Alastair Campbell paid off. He kept smiling in a credible way – telling anecdotes in exactly the way that he does, in private, when he’s trying to charm people. It’s often said that Brown is a charmer when he can be bothered to find the ‘on’ switch, and he found it tonight. Perhaps because Brown was being interviewed by a friend, he spoke and behaved utterly different to how he normally does. This was as good as it gets for him.
It was a production featuring not just Brown, but the planet’s entire inventory of people who like him. His friend Peter Livingstone, his brothers Andrew and John, his in-laws – even Blair and Mandelson were there talking about his good side. ("He was tremendous fun to be with" says Blair – all the stops were being pulled out because they all see this as a campaign device). Sarah, easily Brown’s no.1 weapon, was on full display. The camera kept cutting to her, as if they are a joint ticket. Prepare for plenty more of this in the campaign,
Sarah spelled out the message of the evening: Brown’s grumpy, but there is a human side. He loves books, friends and his family. Sure, he’s not good at 24-hour news media. If he’s grumpy that’s because – as he says – "I’m impatient to get things done." But he’s not flash, just Gordon. Back to that message which, in 2007, seemed to so discomfit the Tories. He feasted on humble pie. "I feel embarrassed when I see that," he said of the air kissing pictures. He says he’s made several mistakes (like selling our gold at the bottom of the market, but Morgan didnt pursue). "If I lost the election, I’d have to consider what I’d do then," he said – the closest he’s come to saying he’d quit if he lost (which Mandelson has recently been saying, in private, is not a given). He said he’d "rather do charity work" after being PM – let’s see if hasn’t pocketed a directorship by this time next year. If not: fair play to him.
Brown said he proposed with the immortal words "I want to get married soon" – I look at this in my News of the World column today. A clunky line, but it worked – and Brown’s clunky lines may work for millions of voters.
It’s unusual, in a democracy, to see such a favourable piece of television for a government leader – the audience were almost indecently supportive. God knows where they found them from. Andrew Neil and Andrew Pierce were there, giving a little bit of grit in the oyster (or as much grit as the editors’ allowed). But it’s clear that Morgan He genuinely likes Brown, and made no effort to disguise their friendship – making mention of the times he visits No10, etc. Morgan put huge amounts of work and effort into showing the upside of the man who he has defended, often alone, time and time again. The result is the best publicity Brown is ever likely to get.
P.S. In the commercial break, after an advert for erectile dysfunction remedies, there was a great wee advert of a large politician standing beside a tiny woman and child. Then the politician shrank, and the woman and child surged – the Lilliputian conceit was reversed. "We know who’s really important," said the slogan. It was for the Daily Mail, but if the Tories are clever (and after Lansley’s latest howler, that’s a big ‘if’) they will use the same theme. This should be what they are about.