"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

PMQs: Verdict

The first question was about adverse coverage in the media about the social care plan. Brown began his answer with, "I am passionately committed..." which drew gales of laughter and I'm sure I heard one Opposition bright spark say, "You should be."

Cameron asked why local councils of all Parties had come out against the plan - saying it was "unfunded, unclear, will lead to possible cuts, rises in council tax, have major weaknesses and will raise false expectations amongst many of the most vulnerable" - Treasury papers show it will put £26 on every council tax bill. "Why are labour councillors, labour ministers, labour advisors so angry about the proposals?" Cameron quoted Labour Lords Lipsey, Warner and Turnbull. Will there be a levy or not?

Brown was loud & bullish in answering.  He accused the Conservatives of supporting the proposals through the House and performing policy u-turns, withdrawing their poster campaign
which was only launched yesterday. Cameron, he said, should read the White Paper. 'This is no time for a novice,' made a reappearance in Brown's sheet of soundbites. Cameron pointed out that it was actually a Green Paper. Would there be a compulsory levy - a new 'death tax' - on taxpayers to fund the plans? Brown didn't answer.

Bercow had to intervene three times in the first thirteen minutes; the House was rowdy and thuggish and Bercow intervened several times more before the end of the half-hour.

Clegg welcomed the announced increase in compensation for injured veterans and asked why soldiers in the front-line receive less than newly-recruited police/fire officers. Brown modulated his tone, as he always does when discussing the Armed Forces. Clegg urged the cutting of MoD "bureaucrats" in order to pay more to the Armed Forces.

There were three questions from backbenchers related to the Greek economy, the eurozone, the UK taxpayer and the Tobin Tax:

Douglas Carswell (Con, Harwich):  "Britain wisely stayed out of the euro.  There is now a strong possibility that Greece will default on her debts, something that is not our immediate problem.  Can the PM confirm that, at a time when our national debt is rising fast, there is no question UK taxpayers' money will be used to bail out Greece under any circumstances."
Brown: "Greece should stick by the commitments it's made to the EU and the world. There... are provisions, through the G20, for Greece to receive international aid if it desires."

Gisela Stuart (Lab, Birmingham Edgbaston) later asked a very similar question: "Could the PM confirm that any negotiations involving a bail-out for the Greek economy will be completely confined to eurozone countries and have no impact on the UK."
Brown: "I've already said that there is international support available for countries as set out by the G20 summit in London in April. That is support that is able to be drawn on at an i/national level. If the euro area wishes to move ahead with a proposal that is for the euro area."

Is that a 'yes' or a 'no'?  I daresay the UK taxpayer will be bailing out Greece via the EU, eurozone or no and we already bumped up payments to the IMF last year in order to swell their coffers.

Alan Simpson (Lab, Nottingham South) used the Greek economy and the speculation against the euro as a springboard to champion Brown's proposed 'Tobin' tax on banks.

Gwyn Prosser (Lab, Dover) accused 'carpet-bagging Conservative candidate of spinning 'myths and fables' about the Port of Dover being sold to the French.  Brown - "...there will be no forced privatisation under Labour.  We will look for new ways of getting in new investment into the port."

John Redwood (Con, Wokingham): "Why, uniquely amongst advanced economies, is the UK inflation rate well above target and rising very sharply when our output is so very flat?" I'm sure you can guess that Brown's response was that it would be much worse under the Conservatives.

Other matters raised included Lord Ashcroft's tax status; scale of government investment in science and research; Sri Lanka and the arrest of General Fonseka; the National Stroke Strategy (making it compulsory for everyone to watch PMQs should help the government reach its targets); restoring the link between state pensions and earnings; the 50k slush fund for Brown's leadership campaign - that one angered Brown.

It was an undignified scrummage not worthy of the main questions being asked: the elderly and the Armed Forces.  Cameron bested Brown for the second week in a row.  We're not getting as many stutters and malapropisms from Brown as we used to - he seems to have solved that problem by simply shouting and being angry - something he does quite well.

Videos courtesy of Swiss Bob at The Daily Politics


  1. Great Minds, GV.............

    Like you I also picked up on the Carswell/Stuart questions and the non-answer from Brown.

    Mind you, as the EU considers itself an international body, then the answer must be, as you surmise, a bloody great yes!

    Could not miss the irony of the word verification which was 'chargre'!

  2. Yes, Mr W - the UK taxpayer has already contributed funds to both the EU and the IMF - so effectively if the bailout comes it will be with British taxpayers' money; being in the eurozone makes no difference.

  3. PMQs should be re-named a debate on Conservative Policies, which don't exist except when Jimmy needs to score points.

  4. True OR - every question to Brown is turned against the Conservatives and he never, ever, ever answers a question. I don't like his attitude to Clegg either - always patronising.


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