There are several explanations why Mr James Naughtie, the Scottish broadcaster, should have called Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport a c**t.  Mr Naughtie may have spoken for those who have met the gentleman in question and find the description apt.  Or he might have been betraying a degree of Scottish chippiness, an innate Caledonian dislike of Tories, sauteed in the bitter mortification that comes with the freezing of the BBC licence fee.  Let us dismiss as too prosaic the possibility that it was a slip of the tongue; a man who manages to convert the innocent words Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt into something simultaneously Spooneristic and rhyming-slang is, in modern sociological terms, trying to tell us somethnig.

And yet.  I have my own theory. All Monday morning and way past lunchtime the Twittersphere was giggling with glee at Mr Naughtie’s unfortunate utterance. My brief survey of the leading blogs found that only MumsNet and the Church of England declined to carry the relevant link to YouTube.

Now it doesn’t take much to distract a population that is, by definition, obsessed by trivia, but when I see the digital herd flocking in one direction or another, I wonder who is pulling them there, and why.  And I can only conclude that the whole thing was got up as a device to divert attention from the real news of the day, which is that Gordon Brown has started to publish his memoirs. Did you know that? You see, it works.

Why they should bother, however, is anybody’s guess.  Mr Brown’s writing may well be the only extant example of text in English that Julian Assange would not contemplate releasing on Wikileaks. The effect is deadly.

Even on the Guardian site, home of the organisation that has paid money for Mr Brown’s oeuvre, they do not seem keen to advertise the fact. You have to scroll down the page before you come to the former prime minister’s happy face, reproduced at approximately the size of a postage stamp, and advertising a link to an extract from his book called, beguilingly, “book extract”.  It is an interesting photograph too: half of the former prime minister’s face is a pale lit white,  while the other half lies interred in darkness. This may be just how the photographer arranged it, or, more probably, is just how it always is.  The former prime minister looks not unlike the moon.  But if there is life there, there is little evidence of it from his book.

Mr Brown we know, has eschewed the opportunity to write a memoir setting down his rise to power – how he was manufactured in a Clydeside shipyard and spent the first 12 years of his life in the bible cupboard at the local kirk – or the machinations he deployed to stay there. Damian MacBride and Edward Balls are absent from these pages.

Instead, the old gloom is spending his book-writing days much as he spent his time in office: lecturing us in anesthetic detail about the global economy and how he thinks it should work. This comes out as neither history nor literature, still less entertainment. It is therapy.

“The crises of economic policy in the past century teach us that the conventional wisdom of the day easily become the misjudgement of history” begins the first extract, and from that startling opening the prose quickly multiplies like a virus, all too soon achieving the written equivalent of Ann Widdecombe’s knickers: maximum impenetrability for minimum reward. Mr Brown has mastered the page-turner all right. But an editor or somebody should have told him that the idea was for the page to be read before it gets turned.

Merely from the first slab reproduced in the Guardian it is possible to wrench away a dozen or more sentences that illustrate Mr Brown’s stunning prose. But I particularly relished the moment when the author – get this – accuses the European Central Bank of “talking obscurely” when they say that government indebtedness had “opened up a number of hazardous contagion channels and adverse feedback loops between financial systems and public finances”.  One senses here the apprentice recognising the true master at work. And this from a man whose idea of an adverse feedback loop was to throw a photocopier at his diary secretary.

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