Freesheet carries interesting Brown interview

(There are two surprises in that headline.)

Up until this morning, ShortList magazine was, for me, one of those bits of stuff people try to force upon you on your way into the Tube: that is to say, always to be rejected. Today, however, was different: on its front cover is an advert for an interview with Gordon Brown.

I grabbed one and, to my surprise, as I descended on to my particularly crowded platform on the Northern "Misery" Line, I saw that quite a few other passengers had, too. Perhaps people are actually interested in their rather mysterious Prime Minister. Perhaps it was partly the Piers Morgan effect. Perhaps it was just because, as I now note, it comes out weekly, on Thursdays.

Whatever the reason for its popularity, I can't see people flocking to read about Brown's predecessor when he was prime minister, despite his more "likeable" personality.

Talking of which, I discovered inside that this is the magazine which brought us headlines last week ushering in the rather implausible image of David Cameron playing darts. So it is logical that today it carries an interview with Brown. Perhaps Nick Clegg will be next week; one rather hopes so.

The interview itself is actually pretty interesting, once you get past the writer's overexcitement at visiting "the world's most famous address". I'll let you read it for yourself, but one answer in particular jumped out at me (apart from the revelation, in the online extended version, that Brown likes to use text-message-type abbreviations such as "r u . . .?"):

Q. To borrow a Simon Cowell phrase, has "likeability" become more important than policy?

A. Not in the end for people, I don't think. I think in the end, when people make a decision, they make a decision on character and about policy. You can have a guy who walks into the room, goes around the room, listens to what people have to say, and says: "I agree with you." That guy can be a real personality because he'll say what people want to hear. Or you can have someone with character who'll walk into the room and say: "This is what I believe. This is what I think is important." And I think people are more impressed in the end by someone with character than someone superficial.

Who could he be comparing himself to?


James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.