This week sees the return of my usual PMQs post, having missed last weeks because I was in London at a YBF event. PMQs today was a very interesting knock around with even some good contributions from Nick Clegg for a change. Cameron certainly gave Brown a good kicking and apart from one instance of an unfortunate choice of words totally dominated, nay wiped the floor with Brown.
The session began with the usual condolences marking yet more brave soldier’s deaths in defence of our country. Then the fireworks started. With the news that today’s unemployment rise is the highest since records began (in 1972) Cameron had plenty of ammo. His point was strong and simple: nothing Brown has done is working. Cameron said that “With unemployment getting worse, all the time, did this not show how stupid it was for Brown to claim Britain was best-placed to weather the recession?”
Brown responded by saying that unemployment was higher in France and Germany as well as the EU in general. 1. The EU’s figures are dominated by France and Germany, 2. These countries traditionally have higher unemployment even in good times, and 3. Our unemployment is rising at a faster rate than anywhere in the developed world (apart from Iceland).
Cameron said Brown “is just incapable of admitting he got anything wrong” capitalising on his apology speech he made in Birmingham on Friday. Cameron then used the same tactic that Hague used so effectively a fortnight ago. He listed all the Brown initiatives that have been delayed, and those which are gimmicks, that have helped practically no one so far, such as: homeowners’ support group, asset-backed security system etc.
These initiatives are not “real help” they are the worst sort of headline grabbing gimmicks. These are all doomed to failure, and they are deceitful as they only offer false hope to desperate people. So Cameron can keep saying “your ‘help’ is useless” – what’s more, it’s a phrase that can be deployed again and again until polling day. As Cameron put it “ineffectiveness and hyperactivity is the worst possible combination.”
Brown of course totally failed to answer Cameron’s claims, accusing the conservatives of been callus, talking Britain down, doing nothing etc.
Cameron responded with “We’ve just had the view from the bunker” and that view is that all government schemes have been implemented and are working properly. In reality little is working. This is an incompetent government that couldn’t stop Sir Fred Goodwin, the man Labour knighted for services to banking, from getting his bumper pension.
Speaker Michael Martin then interrupted the proceedings and caused David Cameron some embarrassment when he forced him to withdraw the term “phoney” which he had applied to Gordon Brown. Nick Robinson and the media immediately jumped on this but I agree with Iain Dale who said that Cameron’s “argument totally justified the accusation, but he will know that he shouldn’t have said it.” He goes on to say that “the verdict outside the bubble might be rather different” to the media’s interpretation. “People do see Brown as a phoney, and whatever the rights and wrongs of Cameron saying it, he reflected what many people think.”
Cameron’s final question was rudely interrupted by Dennis Skinner, I did not catch what he said but Cameron’s response was first rate. He said “I know he wanted miners in the government. Well he’s now got Lord Myners.” Skinner, for once, didn’t have a come back, and just sat there in shame.
Next up to face the PM was Nick Clegg who tried to force Brown to accept that his Government’s frenzied targets were part of the reason for the tragic spate of deaths at the Staffordshire hospital. Clegg pointed out that doctors had said to him that they were obliged to abandon the very sick to tend patients with relatively minor ailments just to tick boxes and meet targets. Brown apologised for the deaths and promises a review to find out what happened.
Overall this was a good performance from Cameron and despite the retraction he was assertive, energetic, and contemptuous of Brown. Brown was a bit weak today and seemed a bit half hearted at times, but there were no mistakes on his part. As for Clegg it was a much improved performance, see how well he does when he follows Tory principles and adopts our position. So the marks are as follows:
Gordon Brown 6
David Cameron 7
Nick Clegg 6