Lloyd Evans

A buoyant Cameron gives Brown a PMQs kicking

A buoyant Cameron gives Brown a PMQs kicking
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Today’s PMQs was both tedious and fascinating. Dave marched in with a two-pronged strategy. To force the PM to call the recession ‘a bust’ and accept personal responsibility for it. He knew Gordon would refuse to make either admission so he had a statistical counter-attack up his sleeve. He quoted the definition of an economic bust given by Gordon to a select committee last year. ‘A reduction in GDP of one and a half percent.’ So would the PM concede that our economy was due to shrink by that amount, or more, this year? Would he hell. Brown loves spewing out statistics but hates it when they’re flung back at him and he deployed his pre-arranged rhetorical defence. The problem is global, his policies are leading the world out of the crisis while the Tories’ plan is – yawn – to do nothing. Growing incensed, Dave forgot Commons protocol. ‘You didn’t abolish boom and bust did you,’ he said, earning a rebuke from the Speaker for his unparliamentary use of the second person. This added a frisson of transgression, a rebellious sparkle to the proceedings.

Next Gordon attempted to crush Dave by pulling rank and contrasting his grey hairs and wisdom with his opponent’s youth and inexperience. ‘He can play his game of student politics as long as he likes but the country wants to know if he’ll take action to end the recession. He would do nothing to help.’ Dave replied with subtlety and promptness. ‘Only one of us was a student politician,’ he said, ‘and he’s never grown out of it.’ A useful reminder that Dave, as a student, found more things to enjoy than politics – unlike the obsessive Prime Minister.

Dave was in buoyant mood today. When he’s having fun he likes to evoke his all-time favourite Labour leader. ‘The prime minister’s poll ratings are going back to Michael Foot levels!’ And when Gordon’s on the defensive, as he was increasingly during this session, his body language becomes woolly and wild. By the time he answered Dave’s sixth question he’d turned weakly away from the opposition and was flinging his arms about, bellowing a check-list of bogus achievements. Labour cheered him loudly but with no real enthusiasm.

Nick Clegg muscled in effectively and asked the prime minister to join his principled stance against non-dom peers who fail to pay UK taxes in full. Sadly the PM seems incapable of hearing a plain and fair proposal and saying ‘Yes’ to it. Instead he guffed on about how much help he was offering ordinary tax-payers. After this the Labour backbenchers swung into action like a platoon of brainwashed zombies from Dr Who. Each stood up and offered the Saviour of the World an easy-peasy public spending question. Can the Prime Minister guarantee that my constituents will get the hospital/stroke-unit/X-ray machine/skill-centre/crack-rehabilitation suite they were promised? Gordon’s answers gave him a chance to re-announce government investment plans and to hurl his ‘do-nothing’ slur at the Tories. This panicky and repetitive tactic impressed no one and merely gave encouragement to the chipper Conservatives.

Labour’s strategists are so rattled that they feel the need to micro-manage every question on the order paper while Gordon had the gaunt, desperate look of a grizzly that hasn’t eaten for a fortnight. Dave must continue the task of laying the blame for the recession at its author’s door. Meanwhile Gordon’s belief that he can win the next election with just three words (‘Do - nothing – Tories’) started to look presumptuous and threadbare. Dave strolled it.