Thursday, 3 December 2009

Campbell's knock-out soup sustains Brown

Gordon Brown found his pre-election stride at yesterday's PMQ, thanks to his old friend. Sketch from today's Herald.

Ker-pow! The clunking fist back. What did they put in Gordon Brown’s porridge yesterday morning, the hacks asked after a blistering performance at Prime Minister’s Question Time. "Oh, he’s a full English breakfast kind of guy," said his - for once - cheery spokesman.

On the way to the mid-day bout it was beginning to feel like an abnormal week at Westminster. Gordon Brown wasn’t on the ropes, which was an unusual state of affairs. He’d come to the Commons on Monday to detail troop increases in Afghanistan and gone home unscathed. The yachties were taken by the Iranians but that resolved itself and a second poll showed the Tory lead narrowing. Still, it was only Wednesday, plenty of time for things to go wrong. Like, the recession never ending Mr Cameron taunted from the dispatch box.

"The purpose of asking this question is that he has policy to put forward or he is simply talking down Britain," said Mr Brown to a throaty roar of approval from the ringside, I mean backbenches."The voice may be that of a modern public relations man, the mindset is that of the 1930s."

Wow, a new line. That woke us up and had Labour MPs cheering. But Cameron is light on his feet. "That one must have sounded great in the bunker," retorted Cameron. He should have held fire while the Speaker calmed the Labour benches.

Lots of great gag writers have their careers ruined by the what we in the trade call the "human delivery mechanism" - just watch Harriet mangle a good joke. But Brown was on form, he was actually laughing while he gesticulated to Cameron to sit down and stop flannelling.

Mr Brown got up to the dispatch box again. He looked around momentarily, as if to say ‘watch this’, and then the clunking fist came down on the Tory leader. "You know, Mr Speaker, the more he talks the less he actually says," chortled Mr Brown.

Then it dawned on me - not porridge - he’d been supping Campbell’s soup (that’s Alastair Campbell, back in the Number 10 kitchen to prove he is funnier than Armando Ianuchi).

Cameron was winded and there was uproar on the Labour benches. "The more noise there is...," began Mr Speaker in admonishment.

Cameron, as surprised as the rest of us, fought back but against Brown transformed it was useless. Sometimes the old tactics are the best. You remember the "rumble in the jungle" - Muhammad Ali took all the punishment Frazier could throw at him for the whole fight and then floored him with a haymaker.

Brown’s was a quick one-two on inheritance tax non-dom tax status. That one reverberated out of the ring with the Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith surrendering his offshore status within the hour. "With him and Mr Goldsmith their inheritance tax policy seems to have been dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton," roared Brown. Class war knock-out. "Order, order", shouted Peerie Bercow to no avail. Campbell’s soup - meat and drink to the Labour benches.

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