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Big Beast heads back to backbenches

HE'S been away far too long.

STAR OF THE SHOW: Gordon Brown drew larger-than-average crowds to the end-of-day debate as he put the case to save two Remploy factories in Fife.
STAR OF THE SHOW: Gordon Brown drew larger-than-average crowds to the end-of-day debate as he put the case to save two Remploy factories in Fife.

Gordon Brown – remember him?– made a fleeting appearance on the Westminster hill last night, as the ex-Monarch of the Glen returned after a year's absence to try to save the jobs of disabled Remploy workers in Fife from Coalition cuts.

It was an end of-day Adjournment debate, which normally means attendance is by three MPs, the Deputy Assistant Speaker and a few Westminster mice looking for nourishment.

But on this occasion, Gordy, back for one night only, was "doughnutted" by loyal colleagues. An array of the new Tory intake, who had never seen the ex-premier in parliament, also hung around to catch the Big Beast strut and fret his quarter hour upon the stage.

It was interesting to see how the brooding figure of curiosity still commanded the green benches, still had presence, still made his arguments with force and passion. While there were loyal Brownites gathered round their fallen leader, the one-time Chancellor Alistair Darling was seen hanging back at the other end of the chamber to spy his old frenemy.

The familiar Brown mannerisms returned as he pointed fingers and curved hands to insist that the Coalition had to save two local factories which employed thousands of disabled people to make lifejackets. Better to keep them going while a private buyer could be found than see the jobs move to Asia.

But Esther McVey, the Tory Business Minister, hit back with a string of Whitehall numbers, insisting a previous government modernisation plan totalling £500m had failed and spoke of viability and feasibility, etc, etc. Gordy sunk his chin deep into his chest, glowered at the minister and looked unimpressed.

After the Dundee champion Jim McGovern stood up and tried for the umpteenth time to intervene on Ms McVey, she suddenly sat down.

Was that it, asked Speaker Bercow? It was, she replied.

Gordy picked up his papers and left, not before getting a warm handshake from the Speaker, who said something to make the former Labour leader roar with laughter. He'll be back.

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