Wednesday, November 26, 2008

PMQs: Brown's Same Old Story

I just appeared on the new Sky News PMQs programme alongside Jackie Ashley, who reckoned Gordon Brown had come out on top. I begged to differ as I thought Cameron exposed the PM's hubris rather well.

Brown have quite a good answer to Sir Peter Tapsell's initial question, but it was downhill all the way after that. Brown's trouble is that he cannot deploy humour and is unable to think on his feet. If his briefing notes don't give him the answer, he is unable to deflect a question using humour, as Blair would have done. And once he has given an answer, he will repeat it ad nauseum, whatever supplementaries Cameron follows up with. He did this today in spaces, repeatedly alleging the Conservatives were quite happy to "do nothing". Quite how he gets away with this when the Conservatives have announced any number of initiatives to help companies and individuals is beyond me. But his line about a "do nothing politician, leading a do nothing party" is one that will now no doubt replace "the right man for the job" as the mantra trotted out by Labour MPs at every opportunity.

I thought Nick Clegg's two questions were very poor. He started off well enough but didn't seem to know where he was going to end up. So to finish up with questions of "why did he botch it?" and "why didn't he take action?"* was weak in the extreme.

I think both David Cameron and Nick Clegg make one fundamental mistake in their approach to PMQS. Their questions are more like statements and they take too long to ask. This means that Gordon Brown has plenty of time to think about an answer. Brown is at his worst when he has to answer a six word question. He simply cannot think on his feet.

Gordon Brown 5
David Cameron 7
Nick Clegg 4


Jenkins @ No10 said...

Watched you on Skiy News.

Ann Widdecombe and Iain Dale may wow the punters, Iain, but I am not sure that Jackie Ashley and Iain Dale would have the same appeal. No chemistry........!!

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with you this week Ian.

It was a poor PMQ's, but brown came out on top because Cameron kept asking the same things, giving Brown the chance to repeat his mantra and make out that the Tories were in power and doing nothing!

You're right about Cameron making long statements before getting around to asking his question, but surely he must know by now that if he sticks to the same theme throughout, Brown will just keep repeating the same old stuff.

I would score it, Brown 6, Cameron 5, Clegg 5.

Cameron needs to mix it up more. Osborne has made a good start in the emergency debate, BTW.

Anonymous said...

Cameron suffers from longwinded arguments. The 'do nothing paty' 'I come from an ordinary family' are sound bites Brown dishes out time and again. There is Lord Sleazy hand here.

Cameron should give 3-4 sound bites again and again and follow it with quick snappy questions.

kenny murphy said...

Brown came out unscathed. Therefore, having failed to land a punch i'd put Brown on top.

The question Tories should be thinking is "Just why in these extraordinary times have we allowed a very unpopular PM to be listened to by the electorate".

They are listening and slowly but surely we're watching the Tory poll lead decline.

tykejohnno said...

Iain,why did you let labour the toad Boulton get away with the remark that he's heard that the tory high command has asked conservative blogs to go easy on cameron,why not mention labour blogs ,this just to me proves that sky news are backing brown and labour.

Anonymous said...

A short question will not register on the evening news and Brown will still use it as an excuse for propaganda.

I have just caught a few snippets of the PBR debate and its all a laugh a minute from Darling and the labour benches. All 'do nothing' charges.

Pointless. Mr Dalesman - when will you wake up and realise that Brown will ALWAYS repeat his mantra. The opposition only have 6 questions. This is not a debate and its clear from watching the PBR debate that 'debate' is a concept lost these days in parliament. The chair keeps allowing labour MPs to stand up and make propaganda.


My advice. Always ask questions which will make the labour backbenches squirm no matter what the answer. Don't worry about the answer just ask the question labour backbenchers know and dislike the real answer to.

Iain Dale said...

There's no point in blustering about things like that. It's best to laugh it off, which is what I did.

Anonymous said...


Brown will always repeat his mantra, yes, as long as Cameron keeps on with questions on the economy.

I realise that it is the important topic of the moment, but even a couple of questions "off-topic" would throw Brown. He's on safe ground now when dealing with the economy.

Dick the Prick said...

I didn't watch all Sky coverage but I was pleasantly surprised at Jackie Ashley. She's not a head in the sand arrogant idiot like Polly Toynbee. Toynbee has become an absolute joke and adds nothing. I guess the Tory party has its own fair share of extremists but i'd like to think that they're pragmatic.

Anywho - nice to see you getting the headline gig.

Anonymous said...


Quite right about short questions. I used to be a television interviewer and the shorter the question either the better answer you got or the more the interviewee floundered on the ropes.

The absolute killer is one word; why.

Cameron should stop honing min-speeches and ask six entirely unrelated very short questions.

Otherwise, since Brown never answers any question at all, the Tories could boycott PMQs saying why.

Inspector Morse said...

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rarely ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect in it's weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.
(Sauce unknown)

Eye suggest yew keep yaws on, but also include the grammar check (you are a journo, aren't you?):

1. Brown have quite a good answer to Sir Peter Tapsell's initial question...... Yes, Nigel Molesworth
2. He did this today in spaces..... Yes, Mrs Mallaprop / Hilda Baker

7/10 Could do better.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

One Labour backbencher delivered a snide comment about the "priviledged" shadow front bench.

Sitting next to Brown was Alistair Darling (Loretto School) and Harperson (StPaul's Girls School)

During this the two chums looked distinctly shifty and yet there was no comeback from the Tories. If they cannot even lay the "Toff" ghost to rest, what can they do?

I have been following Parliamentary debate for as long as it has been televised and I can say without exaggeration that the level on both sides is at its lowest. All the clever speakers are either on the back benches or just get sidelined. The last good speech I recall was Diane Abbot's and that was frankly only competent.

Cameron, as others have said, needs to be terse. By the time he's gotten to the end of his question, Brown has managed to find a reply.

Anonymous said...

The BBC have re-edited PMQs on their website, re-ordering Cameron's questions and ending on a Brown strong note to make it seem Brown did 'win'.

They entirely leave out DC's best line.

I've heard of BBC bias before, but this is taking the piss.

It's nothing short of stalin-style falsification of the record.

Lola said...

It's PMQ's for Chrissake - Brown is supposed to answer questions, not make attacks on the opposition. He nevr does tho'.

Ralph said...


What matters is that Cameron gets a good soundbite in for the evening news and doesn't say anything stupid.

The BBC et al will cover up for Gordon, as they did over his Baby P remarks, and Gordon never answers the questions so it's not really fertile ground for the Tories.

Cameron needs to ask unpredictable and yes short questions as that's what Gordon can't cope with. Brown's election Question Time will be fun.

strapworld said...

I listened to PMQ's whilst driving in wonderful Shropshire.

My wife observed that many Labour backbenchers were making fun of TOFFS and she remarked that IF Cameron and Co made a remark about them coming from Council Houses and Secondary Schools etc. there would be outrage.

She is right! I do hope Cameron calls for a ruling from the Speaker on this quite worrying state of affairs. It should be ruled Unparliamentary Behaviour.

Giles Marshall said...

Bang on with your last point! But not just because it confuses Brown; short, snappy questions are the stuff of political assassinations. Neil Kinnock let Margaret Thatcher off the hook in the Westland debate because he was so long-winded, all the fizz had been removed from whatever it was he was trying to ask!

2345 said...

Brown's 'ducking and diving' leaves no option other than 'repeat the question'. Cameron's directness and sincerity brought him out of top.phext

strapworld said...

Iain, Trevorsden is spot on, in relation to questions.

Cameron can do no better than speak to William Hague, who, quite regularly, had Blair Hop Skipping and Jumping as Hague asked six quite different, but pointed questions.

Todays could have been:-

The Shocking Sheffield Case - Is this another case of Social Services letting down these poor children?

What is the current situation in regard to Northern Rock - Why has Granite pulled out and how does that affect the tax payers investments?

If you are sending troops into the Congo, against the advice of the head of the army, what are their objectives and will they be under the direction of a foreign power?

When the armed service personnel are pulled out of Iraq, can the House and the Country have an absolute assurance from you that they will not go directly or indirectly to Afghanistan?

What is the confidentiality that is not allowing the full report into Harringey Social Services and Baby P to be published? The people have a right to know!

With the Country in economic turmoil why do you not cancel the expensive and unneeded Identity Card?

I am sure his advisors could have identified six questions, each of which would attract headlines and press attention.

PMQ's is not a debate.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

trevorsden @ 2.23pm. Your advice. "Always ask questions which will make the labour backbenches squirm no matter what the answer. Don't worry about the answer just ask the question labour backbenchers know and dislike the real answer to."

I agree. And no reason why squirmy questions can't also be short and difficult.

tykejohnno said...

Iain,when Brown told Cameron 'your a do nothing politician,leading a do nothing party,Cameron should come back with'your a bankrupt primeminister,leading a bankrupt party or govenment or country'.

Anonymous said...

"Cameron should come back with" ...

Cameron only has 6 questions, and any question like that would only lead to another diatribe from Brown.

PMQ's? Pointless. Only 'events' have any meaning.