PMQs: when will Brown admit he’s wrong?

Do my ears deceive me or has Gordon Brown just answered a question?

Cameron skewered Brown with a statement from last week he claimed had been incorrect. He quoted figures to the House – something Brown has mocked him for not doing – which showed unequivocally that capital investment will fall from next year, 2009/10, up to the Olympics year in 2011/12. Brown’s response, of itself, is reasonable – actually 2008/09 expenditure was atypical, due to bringing forward recession investment. He quotes similarly clear figures that show the 2011/12 figure will return to the 2007/08 level.

Cameron rejoins that the point is Brown made a false statement at last week’s PMQs when he said investment would “continue to grow up to the Olympics”. Why doesn’t he just admit this?

Good questions, good answers, Brown comes off worst as a control freak who fed the house what he thought they should hear, however reasonable the actual financial decisions may have been.

Bercow makes his first noticeable intervention in a suitably schoolmasterish vein:

“There is simply far. Too. Much. Noise. The public don’t like it, and neither do I.” And a subsequent reprimand to Michael Fabricant is greeted with a chuckle. “Mr Fabricant, you must calm yourself, it’s not good for your health.”

Clegg is back this week with a quiet tour de force. “The Prime Minister was wrong on the Gurkhas and had to back down. He was wrong on MPs expenses and he had to back down. He was wrong on a private Iraq enquiry and he had to back down. The only gear this government seems to have is reverse. When will he admit he is wrong on spending?”

The banshee howls from the Labour benches after Brown’s answer are again hushed by Bercow. Clegg retorts that no-one is fooled by Brown’s unsustainable spending plans and asks when Brown will admit that difficult long-term spending decisions must be made. He cites ideas the Liberal Democrats are producing for imaginative cuts, such as Trident and baby bonds. Where are Brown’s ideas?

Nowhere, it seems. The “Liberal Party” would cut spending, Labour would not, and there is an end of it. I note, to my disappointment, that Bercow won’t tackle the “Liberal Party” thing.

UPDATE: Under the circumstances, I listened on to Points of Order today, and caught a rather quietly momentous statement from the new speaker.

The chief meat of it is that he expects key statements to be made to the House before they are made elsewhere. Or as one follow-up question put it, MPs hearing about government proposals on the Today programme rather than on the benches.

Evan Harris and Norman Baker had good points of order regarding respectively the ability of the House to hold the government to account to scrutinise legislation via the committee sessions, and the ability of the House to hold Ministers to account who were members of the other place *cough* Mandelson *cough*. Bercow explicitly referred to the possibility of changing the rules in his answer to the latter.

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  • I agree, I think Nick did well today after a disappointing time out last week although to be fair Nick asked a straight question last week and Brown did what he usually does and answered the question he wishes he was asked.

    Cameron runs rings around Brown. It is quite feral at times but I find it hard to pity Brown given what he has done to the country.

  • David from W5 24th Jun '09 - 4:59pm

    Good to see that even the Tories who comment on Iain Dale’s blog are saying that Nick was good today. I think if Bercow is able to calm PMQs down a bit, Cameron won’t know what to do because he won’t be able to bark at the PM like a little Jack Russell and people will see that Nick almost always asks good sensible questions.

  • PMQs however has become unwatchable. The calling out, interruptions and general boorishness have gone too far. If Bercow can put a lid on it then good for him.

    What actual power does he have to stop minister’s pre-announcing on the Today programme though?

    Brown’s “Liberal Party” chat reminds me of how at conferences he is wont to say what he will do for “Britain” on issues where responsibility is clearly devolved.

    Its like someone giving directions but referring to landmarks which were long since demolished.


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