17 MARCH 2007, Page 46

The real credit crisis: the nation refuses to give any to GordonBrown

By far the stickiest moment of my journalistic career was the time I interviewed a foul-tempered Michael Howard on his battlebus between Bristol and Cardiff during the 2004 European elections. But I’m sure I would have fared worse, much worse, if I had ever attempted to cross-question Gordon Brown. As it is, I’ve never even stood close to him: the only time he invited me to Downing Street — for a charity reception of which he was the nominal host — I accepted promptly, only to receive a photocopied letter telling me the event was oversubscribed and my invitation withdrawn. I’m sure this curt snub had nothing to do with Brown himself, but it seemed somehow in character. I’m sure also that lack of propinquity is a positive advantage in offering a comment on what the nation thinks of him on the eve of his last Budget. Like most of you, I’ve never shared a can of lager with him in front of Match of the Day and felt the warmth of his wit or the burning aura of his inner sincerity. Like those of you who bother to tune in on Wednesday, I will listen to his machine-gun spray of self-congratulatory statistics and think: this distant, difficult, driven man hasn’t done half as much damage to the economy as we might have expected from a committed socialist and hasn’t been half as dishonest as many of his colleagues — but what a grim, uncomfortable prospect he offers as Britain’s next PM.