Peter Hoskin

A bumpy ride for Brown on Radio One

A bumpy ride for Brown on Radio One
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Gordon, meet disillusionment.  Disillusionment, the Prime Minister.  Ask him questions on whatever you want: the economy, jobs, immigration, expenses - the ball is in your court.  Make him squirm, if you like.  Confront him.  He is, after all, here at your pleasure.

For that was the set-up of Radio One Newsbeat's interview with Gordon Brown earlier this afternoon.  It was one of those impossible situations for the PM.  He could hardly decline to be quizzed by a group of first time voters, aged between 18 and 28.  But it put him at the mercy of some pretty disgruntled members of the public.  And they took full advantage.

The questions were direct and drew blood.  On the economy: "Where are the cuts going to come from?"  On expenses: "You spent £1000s on cleaning ... do you think that was right?"  On immigration: "Why weren't there controls to begin with?"  On Afghanistan: "Are we fighting an unwinnable war?"  And that's just a select handful.  It was all Brown could do to laugh nevously and (judging by the sound coming through my headphones) bang his finger up and down.

His most noteworthy response came on the expenses question.  He muttered about staying in "two places at once," and having "a wife ... and children," before seeming to take issue with Sir Thomas Legg. "What the guy said," claimed Brown, "was that I should not be paying the cleaner a minimum wage."  For effect, he added: "My crime was to pay a decent wage to my cleaner."  But this humanitarian angle didn't seem to go down too well, and little surprise when we're talking about £thousands in taxpayers' cash.

I was also struck by Brown's never-ending spin on the economy.  Today, his claim was that we have a deficit because "we've kept people in employment" during the downturn.  Never mind that Labour haven't balanced a Budget for almost a decade.   And never mind Brown's subsequent claim that he "was taught that honesty was the most important thing."  So long as he keeps saying the deficit will be halved in four years, we'll all be OK...

Anyway, the whole segment is worth a listen.  It's an great piece of political theatre.  And a reminder of why, if it can be helped, Labour will want to keep Brown away from ordinary voters.