Fraser Nelson

An air of resignation in PMQs

An air of resignation in PMQs
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An electric atmosphere in the Commons today. Labour MPs with faces like murder, Tony McNulty skulking in the back where the cameras won't get him, and Sean Woodward to Brown's left. To his right, Harman then Straw. A chastened Michael Martin started proceedings with a question from the SNP's Mike Weir - isn't the Cabinet reshuffling itself, and Brown's authority in shreds? Brown murmured that he'd saved the banks, was getting on with the job, and was roundly jeered. It set the tone for the rest of PMQs.

Cameron didn't go in for the kill - he just asked a similar version of the same question. Brown replied by praising Jacqui Smith and Hazel Blears - i.e. "Please, girls, amnesty! Don't make any nasty speeches about me. You know that would finish me off. You don't hate old uncle Gordy, do you? I'm quite a nice chap, you don't want to pull that trigger. You were both always on my mind".

Cameron started again and Brown then wheeled out his two automatic rebuttals: a) Why don't you ask about policies, and b) You have no policies. He went into one of those American-style chants: "What would they do on the economy? Nothing!" His MPs even tried to join in for a while and, for a brief few seconds, Brown was showing leadership: if only in a cheerleader-style way and, even then, he screwed up the rhythm so that his last "Nothing!" was said alone.  

Cameron tried again: will he say he'll keep Darling for the next seven days? Brown praised Darling's record, in an almost valedictory way. He didn't express confidence in him, so Cameron asked why the markets should have faith in Darling if the PM doesn't. Isn't it strange, Brown said, that the Tories want an election but they have no policies on housing repossessions etc. What a non-sequitur. If the Tories have no policies, shouldn't the electorate be the people to judge?

Clegg said that the real choice is between Labour and the Liberal Democrats - that, at last, raised a laugh from the Labour backbenches. I hope they enjoyed it. It may be the last cause for laughter they have for some time.

I'm now off to discuss all this with Simon Mayo on Five Live at 12.50pm.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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