Run with Eric + TIME

In absence of Morse, Brown brings in Lewis

While I've been away from projecting my views about how and why the whole world is going to shit, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has cheekily sabotaged himself with a number of backfiring decisions just to make me look silly for missing them.

His main mistake was inconsistently backing some expense-fiddling ministers and not others, which is why he's less popular than bird/swine/man flu at the moment. Then there was the Joanna Lumley-led Gurkha controversy, and before all this, the Damian McBride emails and some horrific YouTube videos. It's almost as if he's trying to lose the next General Election. Stop it, Gordon. Stop it, I say!

"How much shit am I in? I'd say about this much"

But as if to welcome me back with heavily folded arms, Brown has finally done something clever. Hiring Simon Lewis as his chief spin doctor is a very astute move.

The main reason for this, of course, is that the unnaturally rosy-cheeked Lewis is very good at what he does. After the Queen's near-fatally slow response to the death of Princess Diana, Lewis turned Queen Liz's reputatation right around from villain to heroine, effectively giving the monarchy the shot in the arm it needed, instead of the shot in the face for which it seemed destined.

Lewis has also done superbly well at Vodafone and Centrica, and from personal experience I can tell you he gives a half-decent lecture in political communications. If he can just sit Brown down and give him that lecture, the besieged PM is well on his way to sorting it all out. Lewis is the man he needs.

"OK, maybe this much"

Yes, very good etc. etc. But most importantly for Gordon Brown, Simon Lewis' brother is Will Lewis, editor of The Daily Telegraph.

The Telegraph? Haven't they been up to something in the last month or so? Can't quite remember...

Ah yes, that's right. It's been the Telegraph that has exposed the MPs' expenses scandal, regularly attacking the Government with infinitely more gusto than the equally guilty opposition (which is what makes David Cameron's promise to end sleaze so horribly hypocritical) and wisely milking the story and the scapegoats until they're dry, raw and bleeding votes.

"Oh, fine - this much. I am in this much shit"

So why would Brown go to his sworn enemy's brother? Surely he can't be expecting his new spin doctor to persuade the Telegraph to turn the expenses scandal in his favour? No, he can't. But it's much more feasible that Simon Lewis can tell brother Will to tone down the Government-bashing a bit in future - or at least be in the situation where he can influence the story and its prioritisation a bit. So this is some good manoeuvring from Brown. If you can't beat 'em, get their relatives to work for you.

Oh, it's a cynical move - of course it is. But it's an intelligent move, and one that admits weakness, which is not an easy thing to do as Prime Minister. As they say in rehab, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. This, then, could be Brown's first in a 12-step plan to re-election. And as long as the other 11 include curing cancer, bringing world peace and jettisoning Peter Mandelson somewhere from which he can't EVER come back to Cabinet, he might just have a chance of being here in a year's time.

But don't hold your breath.

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In absence of Morse, Brown brings in Lewis + TIME