Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Harriet for PM - Not much to worry about

Harriet Harman stood in for Gordon Brown at PMQs today amid speculation about her plans to oust him.

To be honest, I don't think he is in much danger (at least from her). But the Tory plans seemed slightly double edged. They clearly see Brown and his troubles as an asset to them but, if he has to be replaced, they would love it to be Harriet rather than someone more competent.

So Hague offered help to the Government on legislation securing depositors funds in the event of a bank collapse. And Harriet replied by slamming the Tory record on the economy in the 1990s. It jarred massively. As it did when she suggested that Theresa May go and become a bishop, which was simply bizarre.

Then we had a couple of patsy read-out questions designed to allow Harriet to get her soundbites in.

Vince Cable asked about the housing crisis, reporting that house building companies are facing real difficulties. Harriet responded by downplaying the issue and saying that the best way to solve the economic crisis is not to talk about it.

Hague came back for his second set and this time didn't hold back. He had his soundbites on food waste - attacking the PM from his Chancellor days - and he ended up by wishing Harriet well in her campaign to be PM. She hardly gave a ringing endorsement of Brown and, instead of syaing that there is no vacancy, simply said that apparently every man in the UK will decide to flee the country.

Later on, St Ives MP Andrew George said that people wanting to get onto the housing ladder are subsidising second home owners thanks to the tax breaks offered to them. It's a serious problem in Cornwall where home costs for FIRST homes are roughly 10 times average earnings. According to Harriet, eco towns will be the answer.

One final question that stood out for me was from a Tory who simply offered his support for Harriet to replace Brown. Even for Harriet, this was easy-peasy. "He might be in Parliament to ask silly questions," she replied, "but we are in Government for the good of the country as a whole."

That really summed it up for me. The Tories don't know whether to patronise Harriet, treat her seriously or try to help her get rid of Brown. As it was, it was a mess and Harriet - who certainly didn't sparkle - was able to appear quite competent and yet, absolutely no danger to GB. She certainly didn't put on the bravura performance that would have spelled the end for Gordon. So the PM can sit back in his Japanese hotel and feel stronger as a result.

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