Fraser Nelson

Brown’s artful dodger act

Brown's artful dodger act
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This time, Brown came ready for Cameron. If asked about one of the many embarrassing issues dogging him, he’d say “he has missed the opportunity to talk about substance” then indulge in his list of fake economic greatest hits. Cameron thought on his feet, pointing out that the substance is going wrong for the PM too. But Brown responded by again saying that Cameron can’t talk about substance, and produced another boast. So, much for the great exchange.

I don’t have time here to Fisk it, but Brown’s list is disingenuous at best and downright lies at worst. It is a confidence trick: people believe that because Brown recites all this he must have a point. He doesn’t. If I had my way, he'd be dragged back to apologise for misleading the House in saying Britain has the best economic growth in Europe this year. Ireland’s will be 4.1%, Greece’s 3.8% - we’re nowhere near them. How can Brown lie like this and get away with it?

A long, loud cheer for Vince Cable when he stood up – it’s his last time as acting LibDem leader. Which blunder would Brown regret most, he asked? He offered a multiple choice selection. Brown raised a laugh by saying it would not be long until Cable was back in the acting leader’s chair. Cable came back brilliantly, saying someone in Brown’s position would be ill-advised to talk about leadership speculation.

Now I’m not so vain as to say that Cable read my Monday post on Iraq but it was precisely his question. The mutilated bodies of 40 women have so far been found in Basra – is this what 173 servicemen and women died for? Hasn’t Basra simply been passed form a dictator to death squads? Brown had no convincing answer.

Brown was taken up about the SNP’s decision to pay Scottish police more (from English subsidy). He spoke about what police in his constituency really want. But this is utterly irrelevant to the House of Commons: it’s devolved and if Brown wanted a remit to talk about Scottish policing he shouldn’t have voted for devolution.

I’d say Cameron won, but it wasn’t a mauling. Brown is learning he can’t fight Cameron so he just ducks the questions. His ignore-and-recite tactic may be with us for a while. And it is, in its own way, a concession of defeat.

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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