Thursday, 12 November 2009

PM bounces back in timewarped Commons

From the Herald 12/11/09

It was the last Prime Minister’s Question of the current term. Next week we will have a Queen’s Speech and according the strange lunar calendar of Westminster new parliamentary year will begin. In politics time has a weird rhythm anyway, one day the whole process drags on interminably and the next minute events move at a headspinning pace.

Question Time was moved to 3pm because of the special Armistice Day service and Commons traditionalists felt comfortable to be back where they had been more than a decade ago. It was all very bad for the body clock but any chronological measure Mr Brown should have been dragging himself over this parliamentary finish line.

But the Prime Minister, just back from Golgotha by Wapping, looked as if the Afghan crown of thorns and the tabloid’s vinegar-soaked spear had actually pepped him up.

David Cameron, who if he is guilty of anything it is over-rehearsing his synthetic anger, went for the Prime Minister on unemployment figures. By rights the number of young people out of work ought to have been over one million by now for this particular script to work - the figure is 943,000 - but he pressed on anyway.

He accused Mr Brown of failing in his promise to abolish youth unemployment, putting to one side that this government has been around so long that the pledge was probably fulfilled and broken again on the back of the global economic crisis.

No government in Europe was doing more than his to get young people into work said Mr Brown and the Tories had blocked every measure.

"Parallel universe," squeaked Mr Cameron. He flourished a leaked memo, a theatrical gesture matched by staged laughter from the Labour benches, that indicated the Government wanted to cut apprenticeships by 10 per cent because Gordon Brown created the "longest recession since the war".

It was the usual ding dong but Mr Brown had, for once, the sharper blade. "Every measure has been opposed by the party opposite," said Mr Brown having trapped Mr Cameron on a simple question of investment for jobs. "Every time we mention policy he loses it."

Mr Cameron flushed red as he sought to avoid the parry from the Prime Minister. He raised the issue of the mortgage rescue scheme which has helped "just 16 families". That, explained Mr Brown patronisingly, was because the government beat the forecast number of repossessions and had helped people in other ways. "Every time he tries to talk about policy he doesn’t have a clue what is happening," mocked Mr Brown.

At one stage Peerie John, the Speaker, who hates being left out of any drama, intervened to quieten Labour backbenchers. They were cheering Gordon Brown, really cheering him, because this time (3.10pm on my watch) he was actually quite good.

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