Back in the early days of this blog, when the only readers were a few Newgate inmates and the Tavern cat, we put forward a suggestion that may, perhaps, bear repeating at this juncture, when Gordon Brown's behaviour is being minutely scrutinised by all.
For anyone with hearing loss, a dinner party is a refined form of torment, featuring constant background noise and the need to make polite responses to questions you have only half understood. This becomes far worse if, for some reason, you cannot admit to your deafness.
Now read Minette Marrin's description of Brown's behaviour at a dinner party - her evidence for describing him as 'a dangerous weirdo':
'At times he fixed a broad, exaggerated smile to his face, almost randomly it seemed, and directed it at someone, but he kept getting it wrong — the wrong moment to smile, the wrong person to smile at and occasionally the wrong place to smile at. When challenged by one guest on some difficult economic point, he kept baring his teeth in the opposite direction, at the lovely bosom of a guest on his other side who was not part of the conversation. He made me think of an android with faulty programming.'
Consider a man of dour temperament placed at a table where he must show he is entertained by the company but is unsure when and whether he has heard a joke - a table, moreover, surrounded by journalists and London chatterati whose collective sense of humour is almost entirely alien to a manse-born Scot.
Add to that the removal from his side of his wife and accomplice - a supportive dinner partner in the know can help effectively disguise a substantial hearing loss from the assembled company; all it takes is constant attentiveness and the ability to repeat relevant information without seeming to do so.
I don't say this is at the root of all Brown's behaviour - far from it, although it does help explain his well-documented habit of ignoring people when they speak to him (see the link above for other examples). It may, however, be an unconsidered factor in the complicated picture now emerging from Downing Street.
1 hour ago