Peter Hoskin

PMQs live blog | 20 May 2009

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Stay tuned for live coverage of PMQs from 1200 onwards.  A perfect opportunity for a round of Brown bingo, methinks.

1201: And we're off.  He kicks off by paying tribute to the Speaker, praising his 30 years of "public service", and saying that Michael Martin has shown "unfailing kindness" to MPs on "both sides of the House".  Hm.

1203: Not good from Brown, as he stumbles over some numbers relating to Royal Mail.  Laughter rings around the House, and the Speaker has to intervene - he singles out Cameron.

1205: Here's Cameron now.  He also pays tribute to Martin, saying that "everyone wants to thank him for his public service."

1206:
A punchy start from Cameron: "PM, you said that a general election would bring chaos - what does he mean?"  Brown responds saying that he doesn't want to see "years of Tory spending cuts".  Mark that one off on the bingo card... 

1206:
Cameron pounces, claiming that Brown has just admitted that the Tories will win the next election.  To be fair to Brown, I suspect he may be one of the only people who still thinks they won't.

1207: Cameron pushes the election question, saying that an election is the best way to deal with this democratic crisis. Brown's taking the same line that he did a couple of week's ago: claiming that the Tories aren't dealing with the political issues.  He's trying to make himself look like the serious-minded one.

1209: Cameron's come prepared: "The best way of discussing the issue is to have an election".

1210: Things are getting heated.  Brown stubbornly reels off a list of the Government's "Real Help Now," and adds that a Tory government would bring "paralysis" and "prolong the recession".  His arrogance knows no bounds.

1212: Cameron's really pushing the call for an election.  Brown treads the same line as previously: that the Tories would have a "manifesto of spending cuts".

1213:
Clegg pays a mitigated tribute to the Speaker - "depite our differences" - and the House groans.  They shouldn't.  Clegg has as least spoken his mind on this issue.

1214: Clegg highlights that expenses are "only the tip of the iceberg".  Brown says that he's going to "publish proposals" in the next few weeks.

1215: Was that a gaffe from the Speaker or a little joke?  He moves on from Clegg after only one question, and the House erupts in laughter.  Clegg's got his second question now.

1216: In response to Clegg's second question on Parliamentary reform, Brown deadpans: "We're going to publish proposals".

1219: Backbench questions now.  Sri Lanka and manufacturing so far.

1221: Brownie ahoy! "We have invested more in appreticeships over the past year ... our plan is to invest in apprenticeships this recession not to cut them."

1223: Hm. The "Tory toff" attack makes an appearance.  Brown says that the Tory IHT plan will only help the "3000 richest estates, whether they have moats or not."  Brown would be well-advised to lay off the jibes about "moats".  His party is more than implicated in this expenses mess, and it rather undermines his claim to be "rising above party politics".  Disgraceful, really.

1225: Brown claims that he "has not heard policies from the other side of the House" to help the unemployed, dipossessed etc.

1228: Plenty of opportunities for Brown to list examples of "investment".

1230: Brown claims that the Government's measures to "get the banks lending" has injected £70 billion into the economy.

1231: And that's it.  Verdict shortly.

VERDICT: Cameron didn't strike a killing blow, but he easily got the better of Brown today.  I imagine that the Tory leader's redoubled calls for an election will strike a popular chord, and they key into the idea that change is needed now, now, now.  By contrast, Brown's clumsy responses about "Tory cuts" didn't match the moment - and they undermined both his claim to be going "above party politics," and his charge that the Tories "don't want to discuss policy".  Despite the Speaker's efforts, Nick Clegg was again fairly impressive.  His stock has certainly risen in recent weeks.