James Forsyth

PMQs live blog | 29 April 2009

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Brown begins with a tribute to the solider who died in Afghanistan. Bill Cash then asks Brown when he next intends to do a ‘comedy turn’ on YouTube. An irritated Brown bats it back.

Brown announces in a reply to a question about swine flue that there are three more confirmed UK cases. One school in Torbay, where a pupil is sick, will be closed for the duration.

Cameron leads on swine flu, asking about the national flu line which isn’t yet up and running. Brown chooses to try and play father of the nation, talking slowly and very deliberately and avoiding taking any party political shots.

Another question about preparations from Cameron, Brown again gives a long, detailed answer. In the political circumstances he’s facing, Brown must be relieved that PMQs is so high-minded.

Cameron switches to the Gurkhas, praising Clegg for his work on the issue.

Brown tacks back to swine flu, before listing what has been done for the Gurkhas in 1997. Brown tries to argue that Britain can’t make promises it can’t afford. After the orgy of public spending he’s presided over, this sticks in the throat. This man knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. 

Cameron pushes for a right of settlement for those who have served this country. Brown refuses to agree.

Martin Salter, Labour MP who is not standing at the next election, joins in on the Gurkha front. The government really is isolated on this.

Now Clegg joins in, attacking the honesty and decency of Brown’s answers and proposals.

The Labour frontbench looks particularly glum. They must know they are defending the indefensible here.

Clegg rips into Brown—accusing him of having ‘no principles and no courage’.

Chris Mullin asks if money is tight why don’t we not replace Trident. CND lives on.

Michael Spicer tries to taunt Brown about why the country needs a Labour government, but just ends up serving up a juicy half volley for Brown to bash back down the ground.

A question about Balls’ cock-up over funding for 16 to 18 education. Brown claims, wrongly, that the Tories would cut education spending.

A Labour MP launches into an attack on second job and the 'millionaires row' of the Tory front bench. When the going gets tough, Labour go back to the class war.

Another question about the Gurkhas, this time from Sir Nicholas Winterton. Brown looks exasperated.

A soft-ball question from a Labour backbencher.

A question about Labour’s broken promises on Europe and tax, leads to Brown reading out a string of old Ken Clarke quotes.

The session ends with another soft-ball question from a Labour backbencher.

Verdict: Cameron’s decision to lead on swine flu meant that this session was not devastating for Brown. But on the Gurkha issue, Brown was isolated. (Clegg was particularly impressive, the phrase 'no principles and no courage' pithily summed up Brown's stance).  There is no defence for his position which is wrong morally and politically. The longer this issue stays in the spotlight, the more harm it will do to the government.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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