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Couldn't or wouldn't

Nick Robinson | 09:54 UK time, Thursday, 13 December 2007

"I think you can see the priority I attach to attending this committee," joked Gordon Brown at the start of his first appearance before Select Committee chairmen this morning.

This is a change in tactic from the 'fuss about nothing' message that's emanated from Downing Street in recent days when they were asked why he, uniquely amongst Europe's leaders, could not arrange his diary so as to join Sarkozy, Merkel et al for the signing of the EU Treaty in Lisbon. When I put this to a Whitehall source recently he said "It's not a case of could not, it's would not".


  • 1.
  • At 10:16 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • gavin sanders wrote:

I think Brown is sending out a clear message on the importance that he attaches to signing away more sovereignty from our country.

  • 2.
  • At 10:20 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Charles E Hardwidge wrote:

Nick, I really enjoy how you bring us stuff with regularity. Building on my comments in your last topic, I think, it's a great gesture and even though you don't make a big deal of it you do look as if you adjust your presentation to meet readers concerns from time to time. In that respect, I don't think you're any different to the Prime Minister. Indeed, as one struggles to make credible comment and is saved from occasional embarrassment by the moderation, armchair pundits find themselves in a similar position. I'm not sure what I'm trying to say here, if anything. Maybe it's better, sometimes, just to let the moment speak for itself.

It's better for the country that Brown chose to answer questions in a Commons committee room over the EU treaty. His comments on private involvement in the NHS were far more revealing than a group photo and a signature.

  • 4.
  • At 12:39 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • John wrote:

So Denis McShame was officially lying on the Today Programme this morning, then?

  • 5.
  • At 07:10 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Mark Burton wrote:

Who does Brown think he is? After pretending he didn't call an election because of unfavourable polls, now he's telling us a diary change forced him to snub Sarkozy, Merkel and the other 24 European leaders.

He can be rude if he wants, but a bit of honesty would be fair, if he were only to say something like "I'll sign it but it's nothing special", it would be easier to understand across Europe.

  • 6.
  • At 12:13 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • michael read wrote:

Brown has made a numpty of himself and numpties of ourselves.

He's not fit.

I'm sorry to say that this is not a joking matter. Both supporters and dissenters of the EU will be furious with Gordon Brown for insulting the European leaders over the signing of the Treaty.

I think we should change our relationship with the EU to a pure trading agreement, but I would NEVER condone making such a mess of international relations.

  • 8.
  • At 11:35 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Bryan James wrote:

Re "It's better for the country that Brown chose to answer questions in a Commons committee room over the EU treaty." Why is it better for the country?

I can't believe he did it - I'd like to know why - it was an obvious snub, but for what reason? Anyone know? Nick?

  • 9.
  • At 10:15 PM on 16 Dec 2007,
  • Robin Wilton wrote:

Well, how long was it between Gordon Brown's accession to the premiership and his first engagement with the European Commission?

You're much more likely than me to have the facts at your fingertips (or at least accessible...), but I would be surprised if it showed any great sense of urgent engagement with the European political process.

  • 10.
  • At 05:48 PM on 17 Dec 2007,
  • Martin wrote:

Brown still has not woken up to the difference between Prime Minister and Minister.

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