PERHAPS there are two Gordon Browns. The one who spoke with such assurance and vision to the Joint Session of Congress in Washington yesterday bore little resemblance to the sometimes stumbling figure too often seen at Prime Minister's Questions or the boring didactic speaker at Party Conferences.

These great Congressional occasions are always welcoming to the invited speaker and Mr Brown received a standing ovation even before he said a word. But there were seventeen more such ovations during his speech and by no means all were the result of pushing the right “special relationship” buttons. Although the pressing problem of the global economic crisis took a considerable part of his speech he also found space for substantive remarks on other issues of common concern to the United States, Europe and the world - among them climate change, educational opportunity and third world development. It was also a clever speech, closely tuned to the occasion. He picked up on Donald Rumsfeld's disparaging remark about “old Europe and new Europe” and commented, “There is no old Europe, no new Europe - there is only your friend in Europe.” His strongest plea was this: “I say we should seize the moment, because never before have I seen a world so willing to come together.” What a pity that yesterday William Hague could not respond for once with a word of praise for a prime minister who had done his country proud. Instead we got a typically mean-spirited and negative put-down of Mr Brown's fine speech.