ARTYFACTS: Brown’s in town – Day 9

Monday, May 14, 2007

Brown’s in town – Day 9

Too staged
A bit too staged for me. Brown’s people had vetted all of the questions, even the questions submitted in advance (how contrived is that!). His mate, the film Director Anthony Minghella, fed his soft cues and he replied with polished anecdotes. Let’s be honest, no one wanted to hear about his book on ‘Courage’. Brown is not a writer of note; he is the UKs most important politician. I wanted politics, not a PR exercise.

Sign language
I've noticed he's developed a secret sign-language. This one is the 'get things sorted' sign. There's the grasping things from thin air sign, the beat the chest (not a good thing with a radio mike - he did this several times today), the going-forward sign with hands, not fingers pointing. It is, apparently, just Tony's sign language in a strong Scottish dialect (more punches and head butt gestures).

Minghella started by saying we’re both here as writers. Sorry mate, I can’t think of any book you’ve written, and Brown’s are just the usual politician’s PR texts. This was about debate not books. Clearly it was the wrong interviewer – we needed someone sharper and less sycophantic.

Knocking on No 10
As the ‘you set em up I’ll knock em down’ interview started, a loud knocking was heard from behind the stage. It went on for a couple of minutes. Brown joked that this was not the door of Number 10. I’ve noticed his new penchant for wisecracks – he’s clearly a witty guy but he’s sounding more like Tony every day.

There was a lot of quite abstract talk about virtues and ‘duty’ (a word you don’t hear much of these days). His language does sound strangely old fashioned, almost from a book on ethics by some obscure Scottish philosopher. His four stated values were; liberty, civility, fairness and internationalism (the last is hardly a value – bet what the heck). His message is clear – being a citizen means taking responsibility for your own actions, with the state as a sort of safety net and support organisation.

When a few questions came from the floor, not the vetted ones with rehearsed replies, there was one surprise intervention from the floor on why we can have nuclear weapons while telling others they can’t. His answer was long winded and he repeated himself, but he clearly thinks that multilateral action through international treaties is the way to go.

There's always one
There’s always one Brighton crackpot, this time one of those local parents disgruntled about the school selection process. The audience, who’ve had more than enough of this over the last few months groaned in unison. We have the future Prime Minister in our hands and this guy is only interested in whether his kid gets into one of the ‘better’ schools.

Brighton & Hove Albion
More heartening was a light-hearted question about B&H Albion getting a new football ground. Gordon rather rashly replied that he’d sort it out (he's a Raith Rovers fan, so there's no conflict of interest - in fact he's Scotiish, so there's not even any interest). More tellingly, he suggested that the British Guantanamo Bay inmates would be dealt with (whether that meant something harsher like further interrogation, or freedom, wasn’t explicit!). This guy seems to be heading towards some seriously quick decision-making.

Barely suppressed scruffiness
Of course, his barely suppressed scruffiness was obvious. Despite the PR machine, flunkies everywhere like a Blair event, he came dressed in blue socks, brown shoes, khaki trousers (what used to be called slacks) that were too tight, no tie and a blazer. His makeover clearly stopped at his neck with his £100 haircut.

My friend Jackie’s daughter Sarah, asked at a lunch held just before this talk. ‘Can you ban the Eurovision Song Contest?’ Now that’s what I call a question. She was sworn to secret on the answer!


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