PMQs - The Verdict
As Gordon Brown entered the chamber to face David Cameron he would be forgiven for thinking that whatever was about to happen it couldn't be worse than last week - and so it proved to be. Since then the focus has shifted from Brown's leadership to that of the Liberal Democrats, and the absence of Sir Menzies Campbell on the frontbench told its own story of how treacherous life at the top can be. But David Cameron was in his place, and as the longest serving major party leader a comparative veteran at these events.
Normal service resumed
Relief all around on Labour faces just now after 30 minutes of PMQs. Gordon Brown was solid, combative, prime ministerial. He look composed. He also had his MPs on side this time. Geoff Hoon must have put the word round for a better performance from the backbenches. From the off they hit the Tories with plenty of noise, nearly drowning out Graham Brady (nope, wasn't his moment).
The Brown Cameron clash at PMQs
Brown better today, but that's not saying much. The Labour benches were obviously under instructions to cheer, but they still look on without expression with only a handful (Jack Straw especially) nodding to Brown’s points. But he still stammers and allows himself to be shouted down by the Tories. His new line (mentioned five times) is that there is a £6bn black hole in Tory plans, latching on to the dodgy maths in the Tory non dom calculation. Quite right too, a good target.
PMQs: Same Old, Same Old...
Having had Gordon on the back foot last week, Dave decided to go try an attack on the NHS, always a dodgy decision for the Tories. Dave asked about targets and quoted various people who considered them to be limiting their work, Gordon defended targets and quoted other people. This went on for four questions as their voices increased in volume and nothing new was learned. Dave asked why Gordon wouldn’t listen to the people who worked in the NHS, Gordon responded that it was precisely because he listened to the British people that….and then I lost consciousness.
It couldn't have got any worse for Brown from last week and so it proved. Cameron was just not quite hitting the mark and Brown was batting things away nicely. Too often Cameron sounded like he was stuck on last week - calling for an election isn't going to work every week and sounded very out of place. Cameron's assault on the NHS was easily dealt with by Brown and made his questions on Europe sound like he was changing the subject because he was getting nowhere with Health - which inevitably took the sting out of any calls for a referendum. All the same, Brown didn't land too many punches either - though he will be the more relieved of the two of them! I score it a draw.