Monday, 23 July 2007

The Brown formula

Gordon Brown turned in a predictably solid (clunking?) performance at his first Downing Street news conference this morning.

The new PM may lack the smooth PR skills of his predecessor but he still knows how to avoid answering a question he doesn't want to answer.

His body language is less relaxed than Tony Blair's. Brown would periodically put his hand inside his jacket pocket, although he never seemed to find what he was searching for. Students of jokes about less than generous Scotsmen can fill in their own punchline.

Flooding was the top story today, but he also faced questions about Iraq, Turkey, the Middle East, how he's finding his new job - and the Barnett formula.

The Welsh Assembly's review of the way Wales is funded from Westminster does not appear to have appeared on the Brown radar.

The prime minister confirmed that this autumn's comprehensive spending review will be decided on the basis of the formula and he acknowledged that "difficult choices" lie ahead in deciding how cash is divided between different parts of the UK.

He told reporters: "It is a formula that has been well tested and tried. It's been used by all governments of all political colours and I believe that will be the basis on which the public spending settlement will be signed."

Brown did show more evidence that he can think on his feet - and use humour - when asked about his "puritan" instincts in announcing U-turns on gambling and drugs.

The PM said he'd been in London 24 years and the question reminded him of Mark Twain's arrival from a puritanical church-going background in Nevada, a state where he discovered drinking, gambling and womanising going on.

Twain decided: "This was no place for a puritan and I did not long remain one."

Brown's time in London has been rather less colourfully spent.

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