Was the PMQ flare-up part of a Tory strategy?

Was the PMQ flare-up part of a Tory strategy?

How can Gord avoid Dave’s deliberate wind-ups?

No doubt that on his flight across the Atlantic for the G20 meeting Gordon Brown will be reflecting on yesterday’s PMQs which seemed to go horribly wrong.

    Could the Cameron approach not have been the accident it appeared to be but was it part of a carefully worked out plan to undermine him?

I’ve just been asked that question by a journalist who suggested that I might have predicted yesterday’s PMQ flare-up in an article I was interviewed for in the Washington Post just a month ago. At the time I was asked for a view on what Cameron could do about Brown’s transformation from a political has-been to someone who was being dubbed “the saviour of the world”.

The article, published on October 17th 2008, included this: “…Smithson said Cameron might also be trying to goad Brown into losing his temper, making him look less like a global statesman and more like a British leader struggling with his approval ratings. “I think a lot of the strategy is getting Brown to lose it,” Smithson said. “If he can get Brown to have a temper flash, then Cameron’s in the game again.”

Isn’t that what happened yesterday with all the taunts from Cameron about not expecting to get an answer from Brown because he never gives them? Wasn’t the idea of trying to deflect Brown from his prepared PMQ script just part of the Cameron game-plan?

The more I’ve looked at the commons scene and reflected on what I told the Washington Post a month ago the more I think I might be right. This was pre-prepared. The Cameron team knew that Brown would be blown off course by not going with the economy and they could easily have anticipated his response to what appeared to be an innocuous simple question on the baby murder case.

And, after his success yesterday, won’t Cameron try the same technique again? It’s dead simple. He makes an obvious point knowing that Brown simply does not have the fleet-footedness to make it up as he goes along. Cameron then reminds everybody that Brown never gives straight answers – something which is plain for all to observe.

There is a dead easy counter for Brown – just answer the question. Alas this is something he seems unable to do. Are we then into a new era of PMQs? I can’t wait until the next time.

Our cartoon is by Marf of Londonsketchbook.com.

Mike Smithson

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