Quentin Letts: 'Prime Minister Elect's' coronation is distinctly anti-climactic

Last updated at 08:23 18 May 2007

They are already calling him "Prime Minister elect", although of course he has not been elected to that position, nor even to the post of Labour leader.

Perhaps that is why the whole Gordon Brown thing so far feels so flat, so joyless, somehow so

sneaky. Yesterday Mr Brown summoned us to a venue in the City of London – the headquarters of Bloomberg, an American financial information company.

It was a ridiculous, 1990s sort of place: staircases moulded from transparent plastic, flashing plasma screens on every wall and even in some floors, a vast goldfish tank in the foyer. This faux sci-fi sophistication was

presumably intended to convey modernity and purpose.

Trouble is, Tony Blair also held events at this building in the past. So not so new or surprising, after all. I looked at the bottom of the fishtank to see if I could see any remains of John McDonnell MP.

Mr Brown, not for the first time, arrived late. This is a bad habit which I hope he will grow out of.

He was introduced by Jack Straw, who is acquiring the air of a lion tamer who is just a little uncertain about the temperament of his

beast and hopes he will be excused if the big cat turns nasty.

Mr Brown mentioned Mr Blair only briefly, in a tone normally reserved by election winners for

their vanquished opponents.

He spoke slower than usual. He has picked up a Bill Clinton-style half-stare into the middle distance. This may be designed to give him a

considered, visionary feel.

The voice yesterday was not quite as laughably husky as it was on Radio 4 last Saturday morning, when he sounded like "Whispering" Ted Lowe, snooker commentator, but it has lost some of its shoutiness. He also sounds a touch less Scottish. Already there were some of the trappings of Prime Ministership: his motor-cade, once nothing more than a couple of Vauxhalls, yesterday included a bullet-proof Range Rover. There were a greater number of policemen outside.

But why were we here? Mr Brown understandably wanted to say something following confirmation that Mr McDonnell had failed to find enough backers to make it on to the ballot, thus

making Mr Brown undoubtedly the new PM.

But given that his power has derived solely from Parliament, should Parliament – rather than

this foolish factory of flickering images and money men – not have been the venue?

If Mr Brown is serious, as he claims to be, about restoring the standing of the Commons, why

did he not choose Westminster for this fragile early attempt at Prime Ministership?

At his arrival the audience of youngish, sober party supporters stood obediently. One or two

women made that irritating whoop which now seems to attend any public declaration.

Excitement, however, was lacking. There was no charge of emotional static when he waddled in,

trying not to scowl. It would not have felt much different if Iain Duncan Smith, or Norman Baker,

or Gavin Strang entered the room. There is at present in his orbit a surprising absence of sex

appeal and raw power.

"I am truly humbled,’ he began. This earned a very naughty laugh from one of the "posh" papers.

He proceeded to speak for about five minutes, covering much old ground about the need to have "a new conversation with the country". Ugh. What old, old potatoes.

A few questions were permitted but he would

not say much, insisting it was "premature" to

say what he would do as PM. This made me angry. We might not have been allowed a say in choosing him but should he not at least present a manifesto?

"I will strive to earn your trust"’, Mr Brown said. Strive is good, even if it sounds a bit unGordon.

A weird new smile kept butting in. "Let me say to the British people today (smile!) I will lead

(smile!) a new government with (smile!) new priorities."

The British people, he averred, were "looking for a new kind of politics". But this did not feel new. It felt forced and stale.

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