I don't want to write about the PBR: first of all, I don't know what I could add to Andrew's masterly economic dissection, or Tim's withering political skewering, of its failures. Secondly, it's too depressing. I've had a rotten enough week at work (in the private sector we're already on zero per cent. pay rises, and headcount freezes or reductions, and doubling of productivity and so on - I know this will come as a surprise to any Labour minister who thinks that a fictional plan to limit public sector pay rises at some point in the fictional future is an "act" (in the fictional sense) of bravado) and I'm sorry, it's only a few weeks till Christmas.
I want to write briefly about the PMQ session which preceded the PBR. Mr Brown delivered a line which I'm guessing looked better when it was scribbled down on a briefing note than it did when delivered to the chamber. According to the Prime Minister, we Tories are all wind and no turbines.
The precise meaning of this gnomic utterance can be left to political theorists [clue: it means nothing]; I'm more interested in what is suggested by its deconstruction. The phrase is a direct allusion to what we west-coast Scots often say of our east-coast compatriots, perhaps in an effort to calm our envy of their delightful flats and that Festival hoo-hah and so on. It is not uncommon to hear expressed in Glasgow the view that Edinburgh is All Fur Coat And Nae Knickers. In other words, and as an example, that it is a town which would rather buy another delicious pot of piping hot Earl Grey tea, served in a nice china service, than pay for central heating, or, indeed, to fix that leaking roof.
Now Mr Darling is famously an MP for an Edinburgh seat. His PBR is exactly all fur coat - the financial burden will fall on the better off! Spending can continue to rise! - and nae knickers - so long as you define 'better off' by earning 20 grand a year! Spending will have to be cut, but not by me!
And I wondered if Mr Brown, hunched over his desk, peering through sweaty, meaty fingers at a draft of Mr Darling's speech, letting the full mountainous horror of the revised projections on debt levels sink in, pondering the impact this would have on his image as The Iron Chancellor [clue: see photo on right], unfairly but inevitably blaming his Edinburgh chancellor for the fiscal mess (the fact it's a mess of Mr Brown's own making need not delay us here, as we peer into the window of the prime ministerial psychology) - I wondered, as I say, if the thought But this is all fur coat and nae knickers! crept guiltily across the Clunking Mind.
Only to be banished, of course! Mr Brown and Mr Darling are As One Team. But these seditious thoughts have a habit of pushing themselves forward again, bubbling from the subconscious to the shocked lips of the speaker, revealing more than perhaps ever intended. And so a twisted, unintelligible version of it ended up being deployed, hopelessly, against Mr Cameron at PMQs. If Mr Cameron was puzzled by the phrase, he should relax. Its real target was the PBR. This Government, just like Pop, Will Eat Itself.
I was unsettled all of yesterday, like a half-remembered dream was playing just beyond my peripheral vision. It started on the train to work. I'm sat (as usual) on the very front seat in the very front carriage of a very empty train, alone, reading a book. Then a man gets in at Tottenham Hale and walks the length of the carriage to sit down opposite me. He's maybe in his late 50s, small, neat - the word I would pick now is: dapper. He says: Do you mind if I sit here? I say: No [though of course I do]. He looks at the ten year old photo ID security pass hanging around my neck, and says: You haven't changed. This is not true. He is not agitated and not frightening, and is smiling; but not at me - I think he's smiling at some idea he has, held tight inside, of happiness.
Anyway I got off at Harlow as usual and went to work. Later, I wondered if I'd met the Ghost of Commuters Past.