THIS is a difficult column to write, and not because of its subject matter.
OUCH. Gordon Brown was scalded yesterday, just as surely as if he had been splashed with boiling water. The only surprise was that the Prime Minister seemed surprised by the white-hot aggression David Cameron directed at him.
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THE English do not want for Scots.
IN HIS public demeanour at least, Alistair Darling is about the last person you would ever describe as edgy or dangerous. The Chancellor has constructed for himself a misleading caricature of such stunning dullness that he can lull an audience into a stupor inside half an hour.
"FRIT." "Ditherer." "Bottler." These are not nice things to be called, but Gordon Brown has given the opposition - and the headline writers - licence to use them and more. Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, may yet come to regret his decision to move Sybil, his cat, from Edinburgh to Downing Street. His next-door neighbour does not enjoy being humiliated and insulted, and as the missiles rain down, the Prime Minister may be looking for something to kick.
THOMAS Carlyle's belief that the history of the world is but the biography of great men has not recently enjoyed much popularity. Contemporary historians, rightly, put far more emphasis on the context and setting of significant events and trends.
WHAT is the point of Gordon Brown? That question is unlikely to be put to the Prime Minister today as he answers the inquiries of delegates to the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth. These "Q+A" events have been a small, welcome innovation at an event that is mostly maniacally stage-managed. Cabinet ministers of all stripes have taken their turn on stage, answering the softest of questions from party members with varying degrees of cliché and reflection.
It is a good treaty for Britain and for the new Europe. We will put it to the British people in a referendum and campaign wholeheartedly for a "Yes" vote to keep Britain a leading nation in Europe. - Labour Party manifesto, 2005 general election.
PANDAS. Some people find the big, fat, fluffy, black-and-white beasties adorable: no soft-toy section is complete without a few plush replicas of China's fragile icons. The World Wildlife Fund uses the giant panda as its symbol, confident in the creature's ability to tug at the global heartstrings. Personally, I can't stand the bloody things.
REFLECTING on the hurricane currently blowing through the world's financial markets, it's hard to know if the Bible or the ancient Greeks provide the best key to understanding. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows, says Timothy.
ONE of the less spectacular disasters to befall Gordon Brown's non-holiday plans this year was surely the timing of yesterday's Scottish white paper on independence.
IT NEVER rains but it pours, at least for David Cameron.
THIS morning, like every morning, Shambo the bull will rise with the Welsh dawn, masticate thoughtfully and prepare for another day of worship and adoration. Being a bull, albeit a divine one, it's probably a fair bet that Shambo is as unaware of the fuss his continued hold on life is causing, as he is ignorant of the Mycobacterium bovis bacteria coursing through his body
IN TWO very different buildings, thousands of miles apart, decisions are being taken that could determine the fate of two very different leaders and make the difference between life and death for British citizens in Basra and on Buchanan Street. Both buildings are the focus of intense, impassioned disagreement, both contested by fiercely opposing forces. The comparison ends there, though.
REMEMBER 1992? Her Majesty the Queen labelled it her "annus horribilis".
BROWN'S FIRST DAY
FORGIVE the descent into parliamentary pomposity, but this column begins with a declaration of interest. In the first half of the Nineties, I spent six months working for the Liberal Democrats. For about a year, I was a member of that party, though the association ended before I turned 20 and well before I stumbled into journalism, my membership lapsing as the number of Lib Dem policies I rejected came to exceed those I endorsed.
HER Britannic Majesty's Embassy in Kabul could not be further from the diplomatic stereotype of elegant cocktail parties and white-tie sophistication. A squat, brown-brick lump, privately described by one embassy employee as "disgusting", it is fronted by a small, scruffy garden and ringed by blast walls to protect against rocket attacks.
HEARD the one about the Indian author, the Scottish lawyer and the English comic? Well, they all get to the gates of heaven and St Peter says ... oh, I don't know what he'd say. I've never been much good at jokes, and anyway, I'm more interested in what happens in this life than the next.