Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Clegg shines, Cameron fails and Brown fights at PMQs

Well, I did tweet just before PMQs began that I was worried it might be cruel and unusual punishment to put Gordon Brown through it, what with Ministers resigning right, left and centre. Mitch Benn had tweeted that the events of the morning reminded him of the last five minutes of Blake's Seven.

You do have to hand it to Gordon, though. He came out under that immense pressure and didn't crumble. In fact, if anybody looked weak, it was Cameron. He had an open goal but the ball wasn't particularly well aimed and landed rather limply on the wrong side of the post.

Cameron started very quietly, in contrast to Brown's increasing aggressiveness. He sounded quite subdued most of the time. He asked about Blears' resignation and then asked if Darling would be there next week. You have to assume that he won't be from the way Brown didn't say that he definitely would be. As an aside, on that issue, I can't see how Darling can stay when Smith and Blears have gone. But Ed Balls? Not a good idea.

Nick, however, delivered again. He was much better than Cameron. "We don't have a Government, we have a void. Labour is finished." To be sure, a statement of the bleedin' obvious, but beautifully phrased and confidently delivered. Then he said that the clear choice was between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Clearly the baying Labour backbenchers weren't going to agree with that one, but he wasn't saying it for them - he was saying it to the millions of people going to the polls tomorrow. And, to be honest, he was right. I can't really see Labour getting a huge amount of its existing vote out, let alone attracting anybody new.

The Labour whips had done their bit and planted a few easy questions on everything from solar power (ain't no sunshine 'till he's gone?) to Vauxhall to climate change and the forthcoming G8 summit (casting Gordon as international statesman) to the Tories' European policies from Stuart Bell, who also came out to defend the Speaker the day before he resigned. I wonder if he will be Labour's Lembit.

Honourable mentions go to John Mason, SNP MP for Glasgow East for reminding us all that Labour had widened the gap between rich and poor and to the Liberal Democrats' Sandra Gidley who asked about planning policy on greenfield sites.

All in all, I thought Gordon did much better than a couple of weeks ago when he basically admitted that the Tories would win an election. However, Cameron and Clegg are not his real enemies at the moment - he has to deal with the complete meltdown of his own party. The next few days will see whether he can survive.

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