Wednesday, 5 December 2007

PMQs 5 December 2007

Live blog of PMQs from noon

Editor's comment: "Unfortunate first question from David Cameron on the sleazebuster (asking why an appointment of the Chairman of the Standards in Public Life Cttee hadn't been made... and it's being made later today). David Cameron's canoe line was good but Greg Hand's joke was better. Sensible, I think, for David Cameron to be asking about issues other than political funding. Labour will ultimately be judged for its failures on prisons and defence etc rather than political funding."

Conservative Home

PMQs - The Verdict

With David Cameron laying into him over a series of scandals and Vince Cable humiliating his one-time friend with stinging put downs, recent PMQs have been more bruising for Gordon Brown than a few rounds with Ricky 'the hitman' Hatton. But this week was different, perhaps because the dodgy donations row has run out of steam - for the time being - but also because all parties decided it was in their interests to alter their styles. The prime minister was less easily riled, better briefed and more on message, while Cameron seemed not to want to appear the bully and Cable decided to ditch the jokes for economic analysis.


Brown finds feet at PMQs, Cameron/Cable slither

BBC's Daily Politics host Andrew Neil wonders if our Leader is finding his feet at Prime Minister's question time. Political corro Nick Robinson thinks he is. So do I. Cameron and Cable were nowhere. Pity about Brown rabbiting on about Hayden Phillips. But if it serves its purpose to wrong-foot the Tories over election spending, then it might just be understandable.

Peter Kenyon

Brown bears up at PMQs

A scrappy round of exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions today. The Prime Minister is starting to relax into such occasions a little and finding his feet. He is no longer shaking; he seems calmer and more self-assured.

Three Line Whip

PMQs - 4th December 2007 - Post-Match

David Cameron used his questions for a scattergun attack: donorgate, standards in public live, Des Browne's two Cabinet jobs before moving on to prison overcrowding. Cameron had a topical quip comparing Brown to the disappearing Canoe man. Leader of the Opposition's soundbite of the week: "It took Tony Blair ten years before confidence in his administration collapsed. Hasn't this Prime Minister managed it in six months?"

Boulton & Co.

Brown finally wins a round

I normally review PMQs from the chamber, and conclude Brown has bombed. So I tried a TV view for a bit of balance. Labour does looks better from this vantage point. In the gallery, you can compare the volume of roars (Tories far better) and see every face (Labour glum, Tories exuberant). But on TV you can just see a broad panorama of the chamber, and only the faces in the camera “donut” – who look lively, under instruction from the whips. For the first time, Brown came armed with figures, attack lines and put downs and knew when to use them. I’d actually say that Brown won.

Coffee House

The Verdict

What a strange PMQs. Brown looked relaxed, comfortable – if not confident. He hasn’t come through a session this unscathed since before the recess. I may even go as far as to say, in terms of the way he carried himself at least, this was his best performance yet at the dispatch box. The mood was set by a very unfortunate opening question from Cameron

"For the last seven months the Committee on Standards in Public Life has been without a new chairman. Why has it taken so long to make that appointment?"

To which Brown responded

"The new chairman is being announced today.”

D’oh! Cue much laughter all round and Cameron is left to look a little bit stupid.

For a man who wanted to get away from Punch and Judy, Cameron can be quite a cutting man. I never believed a word of the whole ‘people don’t like watching Punch & Judy politics’ nonsense – it makes great viewing as far as I’m concerned. But these two aren’t merely Punch & Judy. These two hate each other – and it really shows. Usually this manifests itself as Cameron being vicious and Brown completely losing his cool. Today, however, he kept it – and I’m not sure Cameron knew what to do. He just seemed to get more and more sniping without ever hitting the mark.

In spite of Brown’s more assured performance today, I do have one gripe (well many actually, but this one in particular) – I wish Brown would not feel it necessary to roll off a load of statistics every time he attends PMQs (or any other debate for that matter). It is dull, meaningless and turns every one off. Does he not know we are far more interested in a bit of Punch and Judy?! And while we’re on gripes – blaming the Tories for 18 years of government is really starting to sound tired – you chaps have more than enough time to sort that mess out.

In summary, I think today showed us one or two key things:

  • Firstly, Cameron isn’t the great performer we all assume he is just yet.
  • Secondly, Brown still has time to find his feet at PMQs and he certainly is not going to spend the next two years being torn apart and spat out by Cameron week in, week out.
  • And most significantly, this Labour Government is far from over. Time will tell if the past few months are seen as the beginning of the end for Brown or merely just a blip.

While the pressure is still very much on Brown and it will take more than a comfortable performance in the commons to get the public back onside, today we got a small and rather low key reminder that Brown and the Labour government aren’t completely finished just yet.

I score it

Brown 1

Cameron 0


Daily Referendum said...

Brown may have performed better than usual today, but what he actually said was a load of crap.

Garbo said...

That is a little unfair. Cameron really missed the mark on two of his areas of questioning. The first he was just unlucky - that being the new sleaze czar appointment. The second was the Des Browne issue. It was a weak angle of attack and quite a tired argument. Surely the problem here is not that he is Defence Sec and also has the Scotland portfolio, but rather why is there a Scotland portfolio at all? - Labour has devolved everything to Holyrood anyway.

On the question of prison overcrowding, Brown had a cheek to blame the Tories - but Cameron let him get away with it I felt.

Cameron has taken Brown to the cleaners over the past few weeks, but he has had so much ammunition anyone could have. There are signs that when there is a level playing field, Cameron will have to up his game because Brown can bore an average opponent in to submission very easily - just like he did before the recess.