There is no doubt that, objectively, Gordon Brown got the better of David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions today, with a series of powerful put-downs against a Tory leader who sought to pick holes in the government’s social care policy.
Brown began by reminding Cameron that the Conservatives had supported social care legislation as it passed through the Commons, and of Cameron’s one-time pledge to end “Punch-and-Judy politics”.
Cameron accused Brown of pre-prepared lines and said the Prime Minister would “have to do better than that”, but appeared to come up with his own when, after reports that Brown is on a diet of bananas to gear up for the election, he suggested that Brown had not eaten enough of the fruit.
The Conservative leader went on to highlight how several Labour peers and advisers had questioned the funding of the government’s social care programme.
Brown, repeating the point that Cameron had broken consensus in the Commons on this important issue for opportunistic reasons, boomed of Cameron: “Nothing he says adds up; nothing is consistent and he changes his policy every hour.” Giving a foretaste of the election campaign, Brown added that the opposition represents not “new politics”, but “the same old Tories”.
At one point, Cameron responded to a call by Brown to “read the white paper” by pointing out that it was in fact green. But by then the point looked petty and — although George Osborne cackled throughout the exchanges — they were not met with the usual cheers on the Tory side.
Brown is now certain he will be leader into the election; 15 years of uncertainty on that score are behind him. It is almost certainly for that reason that, finally turning his fire on the Tories, he is increasingly confident and dominant in the House.