You would normally have to pay thousands of pounds for the pleasure, but Mr S and the Westminster hack pack were treated to a Gordon Brown speech for free on Monday lunchtime. In a rare Westminster sighting, the former Prime Minister had his gawky fake smile glued in place as he reflected on his tumultuous relationship with the media while he addressed the Parliamentary Press Gallery about the campaign to save the Union. Brown has clearly seen that wind will blow the way of the No campaign and is getting involved late in the day – just in time to grab the glory. He once claimed to have saved the world, and saving the United Kingdom will nicely complement that honour.
Flanked by loyal lieutenants Stewart Wood and Alison McGovern, he was trying his hardest to be chummy and jovial Gordon, content in his post-power world, rather than the brooding and dour Brown who just four years ago clung on to the keys of Downing Street by his well chewed fingernails. But the mask slipped almost immediately as the BBC’s James Landale cracked a joke in his introduction that in Brown’s absence, mobile phone shops in SW1 had gone out of business; cue a vintage scowl.
While a few Labour figures such as Michael Dugher, Chris Bryant and Geoffrey Robinson made the lunch, Brown’s enemies were out in force. David Davis was enjoying himself down the front, and the Downing Street press secretary (and former Sun man) Graeme Wilson was taking notes. The Tories’ head of press looked on while the SNP’s Pete Wishart came under fire: ‘Thanks for joining me. At least you’re not out of campaign trail!’
‘Don’t let anyone ever tell you that I did not enjoy my time in Number 10’ said the newly trained comedian. ‘Where else can you walk to work and get such cheap rent in Central London as I did.’ It was brave of the man who drove the economy into a brick wall to make wisecracks about money. On that very subject, Brown stood by his line that Labour had not overspent in office. ‘I don’t accept what people say’, without acknowledging that almost everyone except him is saying it.
The denial did not stop there. Perhaps the most funniest part of the whole comedy turn was where Brown was trying to be serious. ‘I have no great interest in reading these books,’ he claimed after being asked about his old spin doctor Damian McBride’s explosive memoir, published last year. ‘Who you’re talking about, I don’t know.’ he spluttered. ‘I knew nothing of the things you’re about to claim Damian McBride did.’ Perhaps realising how absurd this line sounds, he continued: ‘I have not read the book. If there are people here who he traduced there should be a direct apology. I was not aware.’
And with a ‘it’s lovely to see you but I have no desire to be part of frontline politics,’ that was that. Off Gordon went, back to his jet set world of international conferences and the speaking circuit, without so much as a speech in the Commons on behalf of his constituents in Scotland. Perhaps they will be pleased their local MP managed to pop into Parliament, all be it for a flying visit.
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