Those who have observed previous interviews with Mr Brown will know that he has a technique, honed over many years of media manipulation, that is based on answering questions he would like to face rather than the one that has been put to him. His trick is to begin his reply with a table turning phrase such as “well, the real issue here is…”, or “what most people want to know is…”, and away he goes, strafing the interviewer with bullets of information that are intended to make one killer point: he’s a genius.
The other, less subtle, way Mr Brown has of dealing with inconvenient truths is to respond through the prism of the last lot’s failures. No matter how badly Labour is faring on an issue, the Prime Minister can always drag up a statistic to confirm that the Conservative Party, when last in power, performed even worse. My first question encountered just such a defence.
I suggested that by claiming to have abolished booms and busts, Mr Brown had enticed many people to borrow more heavily than was prudent in a house-market bubble. Reassured by the then chancellor that the good times would never end (if you think I’m exaggerating, I recommend you read his hyperbolic Budget statement of March 21 2007), ambitious home-seekers plunged in up to their ears. Now, with unemployment rising, house prices collapsing and bankruptcies at record levels, gullible punters face ruin.
Mr Brown began: “The last time we had a world downturn, interest rates were 15 per cent, in fact they went up to 18 per cent… The last time we entered a world downturn in the early 1990s…” Oh, for goodness sake. If the best that the Prime Minister can do, after 11 years in power, is to invoke the failures of an administration that’s part of ancient history, is it any wonder that voters are looking around for a fresh source of answers to problems?
Can you imagine a chief executive trying to pull off the same stunt? When asked about his company’s multi-billion-dollar losses, the boss of Bigbucks Bank said: “In the Great Depression, our rivals’ businesses went bust. We are dealing with this crisis in a better way than it was handled in the 1930s.”
Mr Brown’s biggest failing is that he will never own up to one. Unemployment is heading for two million, so he talks instead about the numbers in employment, skipping over the fact that an explosion of immigration, encouraged by his government, has swollen Britain’s population.
The Prime Minister expresses concern about oil prices, but fails to mention that his taxes form more than 60 per cent of the petrol price. He lambasts the banks for dodgy practices, but omits to point out that, as chancellor, he was the regulator-in-chief. Ask Mr Brown if he is completely blameless for the mess in public finances and he dishes out a lecture on “doing the right thing”.
There’s no contrition, no admission of fallibility, no recognition of blunders – and most certainly no apology. This isn’t clever. It insults the electorate’s intelligence and helps explain why, like AIG, he’s doomed.
Gordon Brown’s one-hour interview with Jeff Randall and the Sky News team will be broadcast tonight on Sky News at 8pm.
UPDATE: Con Coughlin explains how, not content with presiding over economic chaos, Gordon Brown has been content to see our influence wane with the White House. It seems Bush now speaks to Sarkozy and Merkel far more often than Brown, who is regarded with increasing bemusement by the US.