Peter Hoskin

PMQs live blog | 18 March 2009

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Stay tuned for live coverage of PMQs from 1200 onwards.

1204: Here's Brown now.  First question from Jim Sheridan - "Today's unemployment figures are extremely disappointing ... will [the PM] reassure us that he will deal with this?"  An opportunity for Brown to talk about "investment" in skills and training.

1206: Cameron now.  Leads on unemployment and the rise in the claimant count.  "Doesn't this mean that the PM's claim that Britain was best-placed to weather the recession was nonsense?"

1208: Brown repsonds that the Government are spending £1.3 billion on the problem.  He adds, predictably, that the Tories would "do nothing".

Good blunt attack from Cameron: "There's a gulf between what the PM says in the House and what people are experiencing across the country."  Then, rightly, brings up yesterday's IMF figures.

1210: This has got heated, quite quick.  Brown's bashing his lecturn with his finger, listing the government methods of "investment"; claiming that the recession started later here than anywhere else; and suggesting that, on certain indicators, we're doing better here than other countries.

1212: Cameron: "Let me correct the Prime Minister - our economy stopped growing last April; we've actually been in recession for almost a year."  Then comes up with a punchy list of government schemes which haven't been implemented.

1215: All fiery stuff, but descending into a to-and-fro between Brown's "do nothing" jibe and Cameron's "headless chicken" claims.  Cameron seems to be connecting with more of his blows, though.

1216: Terrible pun from Cameron, talking to Dennis Skinner: "You wanted miners in the government, and now you've got one - Lord Myners."

1217: Brown adopts a teacherly tone: "Unprecedented means without precedent; global means across the world..."  Then - shock! horror! - an extra sprinkling of "do nothing" jibes.  


1218: Cameron gets angry, referring to Brown: "What a complete phoney!"  The Speaker makes him withdraw the comments.

1219: Brown: "They are the party of the few; we are the party of the many."  The opinion polls may disagree with that one, Gordon...

1221: Phew.  That was a rat-a-tat, angry exchange between Cameron and Brown.  Clegg now, who leads on the shocking story of targets and deaths at Stafford hospital.

1223: Brown says that this particular case is "unacceptable", and there'll be a review.  Clegg responds asking whether the "tick-the-box culture" will be scrapped.

1227: Responding to backbench questions, Brown says that families affected by the Stafford hospital case will be able to look independently at the "case notes" and take any subsequent action they want to.

1230: Backbench questions on jobs, regions and torture.  Brown again says that the UK doesn't "condone" torture, and that Sir Peter Gibson will investigate any complaints on the matter, and will report to Brown.  Much consternation on the Tory benches.

1232: More on Stafford hospital - Brown effectively repeats his earlier remarks.

1235: Backbench questions on carers and St Helena.

1236: And that's that.  My verdict coming up shortly.

VERDICT: A fiery encounter, and one which generated more heat than light.  Brown and Cameron battled out a score draw - with both flailing about angrily, but failing to score a knockout blow.  Cameron's exasperation showed with his "What a complete phoney!" moment, and that will probably dominate the post-match coverage.  I guess a man can only take so many Brownies...