Peter Hoskin

PMQs live blog | 24 February 2010

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Stay tuned for live coverage from 1200.

1200:
Alistair Darling is sat next to Brown. How cosy.

1201: And we're off.  Brown starts with condolences for fallens soldiers – sadly, seven names to read out.

1202:
Labour MP Jamie Reed asks Brown for reassurances that the public will one day see the taxpayers' cash that's been pumped into the banks. He gets in a dig at George Osborne's public shares plan.  Brown responds by banging on about the G20.

1204: Cameron now. He leads off with a question about the deaths at the Stafford Hospital – asking whether a private inquiry is sufficient to tragedy and the public interest.

1206: Brown gives a managerial response – saying that the government is doing all it can.

1207: Cameron points out that above average death rates had been happening inthe Mid-Staffordshire trust since 2005, but there was a delay before they were investigated.  He calls for more openness and transparency.

1208: Brown's reponse is, effectively, that there's transparency enough.

1209: Cameron segues into the "forces of Hell" story, saying that "Just as we need transparency in the NHS, we need transparency at the heart of goverment."  The Tory benches start cheering, but it's a bit abrupt on the back of such a sombre topic.

1210: Brown jokes that this is the "closest" Cameron has come to "discussing the economy" for months.

1211: A fiery response from Cameron, who says that if Brown wants to talk about the economy, then what about the deficit, pensions, etc.

1212: Good line from Cameron, in reference to Brown coterie of spinners: "How come the moral compass points everywhere but at the PM?"

1214: Brown's claiming that the Tories are flip-flopping on the economy, and that Cameron and Osborne have "got everything wrong" since the recession started.  But he's struggling to sound convincing. Cameron points out that – if Darling got everything right – why did the PM try to get rid of him?

1215: It's rattling along at quite a pace.  Neither Brown nor Cameron really making new points, but the former is floundering.

1217: Clegg now, and he starts with one of his strongest topics: the "unfairness" of the tax system for low-income earners.  Brown highlights tax credits, as he usually does.  Clegg hits back by asking how we can really believe that there will be a "future fair for all".

1219: We're into backbench questions.

1221: Brown teed-up for a dig at the Tories: "they're funded from offshore".

1223: And then Brown has the cheek to scold the Tories for asking a planted question about bullying in Downing St. It was a bit clumsy, though - asking whether Blair meant it "literally" when he called Brown a "great clunking fist".

1227: Apologies, all: technical problems slowing me down a bit. There have been questions about Corus and criminal justice since last update.

1228: Thoughtful question from Richard Benyon, who asks whether the PM realises that the public may not be behind the Afghan conflict - and that the government faces a "moral imperative" to make the case for our presence in Afghanistan.

1230:
Bercow stops Brown just as he's getting into his flow about the Tories cutting "child services" to pay for "an inheritance tax cut for millionaires," yadda, yadda, yadda.

1232: Michael Ancram asks about the peace process in Northern Ireland. Brown says there needs to be a "lasting" solution.

1234: Brown rounds things off with a dig at the Tories, natch, over taxes on the banks.  My verdict soon.

VERDICT: Cameron didn't really tear Brown to shreds – but, then, he didn't need to in order to score a comfortable victory today.  Darling's "forces of Hell" line was always likely to make Brown's life uncomfortable, and so it proved.  The PM tried as best he could to caricature the Tories as a party of, and for, privilege – and, in that, he was joined by most of the Labour backbenchers.  But there's only one story coming out of all this: the Brown and Darling split.  Regardless of how close the pair sit next to each other.