>You wouldn’t have needed a top of the range crystal ball to have an inkling that PMQs would descend into mudslinging, given Bullygate and Alistair Darling’s comments. Would Cameron unleash the forces of hell on the Prime Minister?
The Prime Minister was eased into the session with a question on banking that was so obviously planted that I don’t know how the MP asking it could have any self respect at all. Maybe he thought Nick Cleggwould go on banking, given The Almighty Vince’s statement yesterday and wanted to get a less robust, friendlier question in to stop him.
Brown didn’t seem to grasp the connection between this sort of question what Jo Swinson described as a waste of a question later from a Tory, who asked if Tony Blair meant it literally when he described Brown as a clunking fist. Truth is, obvious plants from either side just add to the ignimony this weekly slanging match has earned for itself.
David Cameron lulled us into a brief sense of civility by asking a reasoned question on a public enquiry for Stafford Hospital. Brown replied with an equally and appropriately civil account of the Government’s actions, although he ignored the request for a public enquiry.
Then it all changed. Call me Dave started on Alistair Darling’s comments yesterday. Ironic, really, for a Tory to go on about rifts between PM and Chancellor at a time of econommic turmoil when Mrs Thatcher got on so well with Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson in similarly turbulent economic times, but we’ll let that pass.
I’m not a good enough lip reader to work out what the conversation between Brown and Darling on the Government front bench, but I’d love to know what was said. The body language between them was a lot more positive than it has been in the past. There was a beautiful riposte from Brown to Cameron, that it was the first time the Tories had talked about the economy in a while. I wonder who came up with that line in the Brown Prep session.
You don’t often get the Speaker joining in the banter, and certainly not joking about the political raw nerves of the week, but it was actually quite refreshing to have John Bercow suggest that he might call a helpline if the childish behaviour he was witnessing didn’t stop. More seriously, he threatened to suspend the sitting and mentioned the bad name the session had. I think he should actually make good on his threat next time.
Typically, Nick Clegg came up with a sensible, relevant question, pulling apart Labour’s new slogan, A Future Fair for all. He didn’t mention candy floss, as some did, but he did mention that Labour had used this slogan before, in 2003. Not only that, but since then, the gap between rich and poor has doubled as Labour punish the poor with debacles like the 10p tax issue and the rise in NI contributions. Brown stumbled through an answer mentioning tax credits and unemployment, and got a dig in at the Tories, but had no real response to his Government’s appalling record. People just above the limit for help are the poorest – and it’s the children in these homes, where parents are working but are low paid, who suffer most.
All in all, the session didn’t quite live down to expectations, but something needs to be done to ensure that it becomes less of a circus and more of a serious process of holding the Government to account.