The last PMQs before the election

Even before it started, one was expecting a 9-9 score-draw – you know the sort of thing, arguments posited which pass each like ships in the night at a distance of one full nautical mile, angrily blasting their fog-horns at each other but not actually coming close enough for any meaningful interchange via Aldis lamp or semaphore.

Also, before it started, a guess as to the first question from Cameron? Could it just be on National insurance perchance?

A friendly Labour MP spiked the guns of Cameron by asking about the “£6 billion gap” first of all. So Brown could fire off his pre-prepared sound bites in advance.

Cameron then deftly side-swerved NI and started by giving Brown a “last chance” to admit he sent troops into battle without sufficient marmite sandwiches. Followed by a deft swerve by Brown. Do we really have to go through all this again? Colonel Stuart Tootle was quoted. Is Cameron making up these names? Brown “We’ve increased helicopters…Chinooks…..Merlins…share equipment with partners…..blah blah”.

“No answer” replied Cameron. A bit unfair. It was an answer, not just the “It was all my fault” answer which Cameron wanted.

Then: “Pension fund robbing”! Ah! It’s like “These you have loved” here. All the old tunes being played out again. A long and laboured answer by Brown accompanied by considerable livestock-like baying from Labour backbenchers.

“Let’s take another decision…” Cameron started. Oh no, another one. Ah! National Insurance! Bingo! “Business leaders have been deceived”, Cameron quoted from Brown’s interview on GMTV.

Brown: “Northern Rock…nationalize banks…help for unemployed….home owner support action…small business support….all opposed by the Tories”. Choice on NI. Put hospitals, schools etc at risk under Tories.

Cameron: Back to the business leaders. Is it really a revelation that business leaders support the Tories at election time?

Brown “Withdrawing £6 billion from economy” is wrong thing to do. “Withdrawing from the economy” by not taxing? That’s a novel use of the English language.

Cameron: “Business leaders have been deceived” Quotes a lot of them. Oh go, boil your head Cameron! It’s a one pence increase in the future. Cameron and the Tories are treating this bucket of water as if it is the Pacific ocean.

“He was the future once” says Brown. Tories wave goodbye. Now, now, girls!

Then Brown listed a load of stuff.

Nick Clegg: “He and he are trying to fool people they are serious about political reform”. Lots of very school boy stuff in the background. Thank God Nick Clegg can shout!

Brown: “Lord Ashcroft!” Bingo!

Speaker: “The house must calm down”. Quite. “Mr Nick Clegg must be heard” Quite right! Hurrah for the speaker.

Clegg: Rejection of LibDem proposals for reform blocked by Tories and Labour coming together. “You’ve failed! It’s over!”

Brown: Labour and “Liberals” agreed on reform but Tories withdrew from talks due to Lord Ashcroft’s advice. He likes that line. Repeated it twice. Or was it three times?

And then at the end, there was a great bit of knockabout. Denis MacShane should have been wearing a red nose, asking Brown if he will “get into bed and breakfast” with extremists in Europe. Warf! Warf!

…Which gave Brown one last chance to say “Lord Ashcroft”.

All in all, I don’t think we learnt a lot from all that, except of course, enabling us to put the finishing touches to our “Leaders’ debates bingo” cards: Ashcroft. National Insurance. Missed chance at reform. Helicopters. Pension robbing….you know the rest.

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