Nothing groundbreaking in their exchange. Cameron had a few good lines responding to what Brown had just said. “There always is an inquiry with this government. Frequently a police inquiry.” And then “That facts were left on a civil servant’s desk for a year he presents somehow a triumph of government policy.” And bad jokes “nationalisation that would make Castro proud”. I suspect these were memorised – Cameron’s speciality is reeling off memorised lines with the fluency of a stage actor. At PMQs, it works.
Clegg was right to go on Northern Rock. His party (okay then, Vince Cable) has emerged better from this than Tories/Osborne by demonstrating a superior grasp of the situation. Brown had obviously prepared for Cameron asking this question and gave his response to the Tories instead – “he has six policies for this.” As ever, Clegg loses credibility on his second question: the “excess profit” of energy companies which should somehow be “handed back through lower energy prices”. Wrong target. The liberalised UK energy market is one of the world’s better-performing ones – and recent hikes are all the more stark because they follow years of real terms price cuts. What should be “handed back” is the outrageous VAT imposed on fuel. That, not the thinning margins of energy companies, is the scandal.
Cameron then came back for a second round, going on Northern Rock Brown was ready for this, attacking those six Tory policies. It would, he said, be “a fire sale of assets, getting less than market value for them”. As the architect of the calamitous gold sale, he’d know plenty about that. “We are the party of stability,” bleats Brown. Problem is, no one believes that anymore.
I love how he drops in “I was talking with Premier Wen by telephone yesterday” – oh how well Brown would have fitted into 1970s Moscow.
Labour’s Kerry McCarthy asked a planted question: youth unemployment is down 55% in her constituency. Really? A brief check suggests those on benefits simply shifted into other categories. There were 10,610 on benefits in Bristol East in August 1999 (the earliest figures available) and 11,970 in May 2007 (the latest available). This is what she should be worried about.
Brownie Alert Here is Brown’s response: “Youth unemployment has fallen by more than 60 per cent in the last ten years”. Really? When I blogged on this last May unemployment amongst under-25s was, staggeringly, higher than the 14.5% rate when Brown walked into power.
We’re getting almost 80 comments on the Brownies, and we’ll start to deconstruct his little statistical tricks next week. And if anyone has found Tories or LibDems using porkies too, send them in – Coffee House is an equal opportunities myth-buster.