James Forsyth

PMQs live blog | 3 June 2009

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Today’s PMQs comes at an awful time for Gordon Brown. But weirdly if he can make it through this half-hour without being bloodied further, he might buy himself some time. But if Cameron pummels him, he might be weakened even further. It’ll be one of those occasions when one watches the faces of the Labour front bench as much as anything else.

Brown starts with the names of those British soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan and with words about the murder of a British hostage by al Qaeda-inspired terrorists.

12.05 Cameron leads on the resignation of Hazel Blears and others. Brown responds by praising the great work of Blears and Smith. Brown accuses the last Conservative government of ‘doubling crime’.

12.10 Brown is trying to spin Blears and Smith going as part of the toll that the expenses scandal is taking on members from all sides. 

Cameron asks Brown to guarantee that there will be no more resignations before the reshuffle? Brown dodges and then starts to praise Blears.

Cameron asks if Darling is staying as Chancellor or not? Brown tries to dismiss the question by saying it is not about policy. So far, this is going OK for Brown given the circumstances: Cameron has yet to land a proper blow.

The questions move back to the backbenches, Brown has to be happy with how that went. Certainly, no further damage was done to him which considering the circumstances is a pretty good result for him.

12.15 Clegg says is there not a danger to democracy when people feel ‘no one is in charge.’ Brown bats it away. Clegg comes back saying the only choice now is between the Tories and the Lib Dems. Ed Balls laughs hard, Alan Johnson looks pained. 

12.20 Sir Peter Tapsell asks a long-winded question about whether Brown will call an election. This really is going fine for Brown. It’s the best twenty minutes he has had in the last 100 hours.

12.25 An SNP MP asks Brown a question about whether he has embarrassed about widening inequality. Brown rattles off a string of statistics.

12.28: Brown gets a softball about the second jobs of the Tory front bench from a Labour backbencher. 

Verdict: That must have been the best half an hour Brown has had in the last 100 hours. He comes out of PMQs without sustaining any further damage, a result that he would definitely have taken before PMQs started. It was also odd for Cameron not to remind voters of Labour’s broken promise on the EU constitution on the eve of the European elections.

Written byJames Forsyth

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

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