James Forsyth James Forsyth

The workings of Brown’s brain

Matthew Parris’s column brilliantly skewers the utter predictability of the policy announcements coming out of Number 10.

“Much the same may be said of the problem-solving programme known as Mr Brown. Focus-grouping tells him voters are angry that top British bankers have been paying themselves fat salaries and bonuses. Key words in these reports trigger links in the Brown brain to key remedies: thus “angry about British banker’s bonus” triggers “stop British banker’s bonus”. “Salaries too high” triggers “curb salaries”. A cross-linking response is assembled: “control remuneration of British bankers”. But the word “British” then triggers a logic filter; and on to the Brown screen pings a warning pop-up: “Incompatibility with frequent assertion that causes of crisis not British. Try ‘international system for curbing remuneration’.” Brown tries that, and hits Return.

The screen says “That’s it. Done. Finished. Your policy transaction has been successful. Add to basket? Create another policy?” But the computer program has overlooked the fact that, internationally, Mr Brown is not in charge. Nor has it the wit to ask such elementary questions as “where does this take us as a general principle? If bankers, why not all company directors?” – let alone the deeper question: “what’s the root cause of the public anxiety? Is it really bankers’ bonuses?”

When the PM taps into his computer a problem like “house prices falling”, it proposes “act to shore up house prices”. “Voter concern about knife crime” elicits “release misleading statistics about fall in knife crime”. “You’re too Scottish” is met by “launch initiatives on Britishness”. This is the politics of the mop and bucket, wiping up spillages in the supermarket aisles; the politics of the clipboard, piling prominent shelves with market-tested goodies for the impulse-purchaser.” Then whole of Matthew’s column is, as always, worth reading.

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