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This event is now over, but you can see how it happened below.
Mr Brown’s first question involves the international nature of rises in fuel and food prices. It’s hard for the questioner to get his point across, such is the boisterous nature of the Commons today. Mr Brown gives a typical answer about recognising the problems people face. He announces the fuel tax delay.
Mr Cameron starts on Jacqui Smith’s suggestion (or was it?) to march knife criminals into hospital to see their victims. “Whose bright idea was this?” he asks. Mr Brown doesn’t answer, and just talks about how seriously he takes the problem. Mr Cameron slams him on not answering the question and highlights the inconsistencies in Ms Smith’s account. He asks Mr Brown the question again. Again Mr Brown just doesn’t answer it. Instead he goes on about tougher enforcement.
It’s a disastrous effort by Mr Brown, who appears dull and evasive. Mr Cameron talks about car tax and asks the PM to admit he was wrong on the subject. Mr Brown does no such thing. He’s trying to walk a line between appearing caring for people’s economic concerns and looking dedicated to fighting climate change. That probably won’t work, and I’m guessing many future prime ministers will struggle trying to do the exact same thing.
Mr Cameron runs onto the fuel tax delay and asks if it’s connected to the Glasgow East by-election. Remember how the Tories said the 10p tax rate handout was linked to the Crewe and Nantwich by-election? They’re trying the same trick. Mr Brown mocks the Tories for their ‘Vote Blue Go Green’ slogan. Mr Cameron responds by saying ‘Vote blue and get rid of this useless prime minister’.
Now Cameron moves onto MPs expenses – it’s a horrific cycle of hostilities for the end of the parliamentary session and the Tory leader has come out all guns blazing. He’s not quite stunning, but his opponent is so, so poor in his replies it’s not a hard battle to win. Mr Brown expresses his disappointment in how MPs voted on the subject but Cameron attacks him for not voting himself.
Cameron’s closing slogan is about the people deserving a better prime minister who doesn’t dither and does understand their concerns. It’s hardly inspiring stuff and it’s not particularly well delivered, but again Mr Brown’s reply – the same all style and no substance stuff he’s employed endlessly in these sessions – is so abjectly poor it doesn’t matter.
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg concentrates on the dire state of the economy. “When will the PM accept a winter of discontent is just around the corner?” he asks. Mr Brown launches a defence of the current situation. He says employment is healthy, inflation under control and Mr Clegg should “see the economy in its proper context.”
Mr Clegg says he’s so out of touch he doesn’t know what’s going on anymore. Um, that’s Brown that’s out of touch, obviously. He returns to one of his traditional – and actually pretty convincing – attack on Brown, which is that he concentrates on the details so much he can’t see the bigger picture.
A Labour MP asks a question about speculation in the oil market and calls for European-style action. Mr Brown talks down to him a little – the question, after all, came from the left – and then turns his less-than-devastating attention to the opposite benches. He does stand up for European cooperation as a distinction between Labour and the Tories, though.
Ruth Kelly (transport) and Alan Johnson (health) are sniggering and whispering on the front bench like naughty schoolchildren. If I had the time I would list the many similarities between the Labour front bench and naughty schoolchildren. It’s enough to say they all centre on the word ‘naughty’.
Every question is on economic matters. Think back to this time last year. It wasn’t like this at all. You can measure the decline of the UK economy through the number of questions on the subject in PMQs. MPs want to go back to their constituencies saying they put pressure on Mr Brown.
Oh – knife crime! I knew something would break the economic cycle. Ho ho ho. Mr Brown is asked to support a campaign on changing all glass in clubs and bars to a different material which can’t be used as a weapon. He says he’ll look into it. Fair enough, although you can’t get rid of all weapons or you’ll have to remove everyone’s hands. Every little helps though, I suppose. It does sound like the kind of policy Labour would support – keep an eye on this one.
“Does the PM think the price of oil is too high or too low?” comes one odd question. Mr Brown says it’s too high and reels off a list of things he’s doing about it. Mr Brown says he’s putting lots of funding into the country’s flood defence system. Kelly and Johnson are still giggling away. Ken Clarke stands up. “Has the government yet decided how the taxpayer is eventually going to have to pay for the state of the public finances?” he asks.
Mr Brown says Labour inherited a broken economy and then says they fixed it. Heard that before. A party in power for eleven years really, really shouldn’t go on about what the country was like before they took over. It was embarrassing to hear Tony Blair do it five years ago, but its absurd for Mr Brown to be doing it now.
Scrap VAT on sunscreen, says one MP. That came from offside. Fair point though. Mr Brown doesn’t really address it but says what the government is doing to beat skin cancer in hospitals. Now careless driving – the economy is fading into the background. Mr Brown reassures an MP he will implement yesterday’s guidelines.
A Tory stands up to talk about one year of smoke-free Britain. He asks for the PM’s analysis and what else might be done. Lovely stuff for Mr Brown, who starts with the statistics again – mostly on percentages of smokers who quit and how many lives have been saved. He doesn’t mention the future, which you can’t help but feel was the bit the Tory was more interested in hearing about.
That’s it – no more PMQs for several months. See you back here in October.