Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Brown: 'Shy and withdrawn' - says his security head

Michael Crick played the part of the "cheeky monkey" on BBC2 Newsnight for years. This is the rather ham-acted role of an errant reporter who skirts the fringes of politicians' entourages with a microphone shouting questions.

The point of the exercise seems to be to demonstrate that the questions aren't being answered, rather than get some answers.

Michael Crick became inseparable from this role for years. It was impossible to tell where Michael Crick ended and the "cheeky monkey" role started. They were one.

Now Mr Crick has been elevated to the heights of political editor of Newsnight, it is very difficult to imagine that anyone else could perform the "cheeky monkey" role.

But they have found someone in the admirable shape of filmmaker Jamie Campbell. He had some success asking questions of David Cameron until he (Campbell) annoyed him (Cameron).

Now Campbell has followed Gordon Brown for months trying to question him from the sidelines of the Broon's exits and entrances from buildings. He hasn't received a single answer bar: "I am very well thank you, good to see you".

After that fulsome answer. Campbell has been artfully fended off the trail of Broon by a mixture of press office folk, security officials and police.

So, the Broon seems to be inaccessible, a fact explained with great delight by his ex-spinmeister, Charlie Wheelan, who added: "I used to pull the plugs out of cameras to avoid filmed questions." It's part the game, he seemed to be saying.

One little shaft of light emerged from that almost pointless exercise in Broon chasing. Outside the Oval cricket ground, Brown's head of security approached Campbell. The two had got to know each other well over the months. Seemingly unaware of being recorded, the security chappie offered this confidence:

Look, you are trying to talk to him (Brown). But we (Brown's staff) don't even talk to him much ourselves. He is a shy and withdrawn sort of chap.

After that, said security chappie offered to go for a drink some time with Campbell. "I think you owe me one now", said security chappie.

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