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.
It is simply outrageous that Brown is using the Hayden Philips party funding inquiry to defend himself from Labour’s failure to obey the current campaigning law. But Brown got away with it. “If the Conservative Party want to play their party in sorting our politics for the future they should adopt the policies we are putting forward,” he told Greg Hands (who brilliantly asked if the police investigations were what Brown had in mind when he called himself a ‘conviction politician’).
Faced with so many potential lines of attack, Cameron chose none of them. Brown batted him away, even if his facts weren’t true. He satisfied himself with his TV soundbite comparing Brown to the “man in the canoe he hasn’t been around for the last five years.” A poor excuse for the kicking Brown deserved.
Brown claimed violent crime is down by 31%. Really? I looked up the data. In 1996/97 there were 331,000 recorded incidents of violent crime. In 2005/06 it was 1.05 million. So where’s the drop? The way the data was conveniently changed in 2002/03, but then on the new series there were 845,000 incidents (spreadsheet here).
Hilarious to see Sandra Osborne, a Labour MP in Scotland, vent outrage against hospital cuts. That’s one benefit of being out of power. Her party would never do a nasty think like that, of course.
Poor Vince Cable fell flat of the stellar performance we’ve come to expect. “He’s better at the jokes that he is at economics,” chirped Brown.
Two observations from the Daily Politics. I noticed David Ruffley saying it was a “fair question” to inquire about Lord Ashcroft’s tax status. Something tells me it’s a question his party won’t be providing an answer to. And it is simply appalling for Hazel Blears to say that “our kids play spend more time on computer games than anyone else in Europe” as an explanation for dismal education results. Gameboy was released in 1989. Millions of Tetris high scores later, English teenagers managed to be eighth on the OECD world maths tables in 2000 and seventh for English. They hurtled to 24th and 17th by 2006. To hear Blears (and Balls) blame parents for this is simply beneath contempt.
UPDATE: Three Line Whip also jumps on Mr Ruffleys' comments about Ashcroft. Might this ball have started rolling?