Wednesday, 26 November 2008

PMQ's - swords crossed over the economy

. I expected PMQ's to be economy focused today and I wasn't disappointed. David Cameron unsurprisingly asked if there were plans to raise VAT to 18.5% in light of the Treasury gaffe. Brown retorted by trying to challenge Cameron on whether the Conservatives supported a cut in VAT, presumably trying to capitalise on potential divisions within the Tories. Ironically, Cameron didn't answer this question at all which proves both leaders can avoid questions they don't like.

Cameron did not offer much in reply to Brown's challenge other than repeating his call for a freeze in council tax. He did say that the Conservatives would stimulate lending by offering government-backed insurance. The focus then moved onto the national debt with Brown saying you can't do something without spending and repeating his charge that the Conservatives would do nothing. Cameron is a 'do nothing' leader of a 'do nothing party says Brown. The fact is that Cameron's lack of policies makes this charge stick and that is why they are sliding in the polls. People may well be concerned about the issues the Tories raise but there is precious little saying what they will do; Brown also leaped on the comments by Andrew Lansley saying recession might be a 'good thing'. It is obvious that the battlegrounds of the next election have already been fixed.

So, enter Nick Clegg. Clegg mentioned the Sheffield rape case but concentrated on the economy. He criticised the lack of fairness in the PBR; rightly, pointing to the lack of reform of the taxation system. Brown emphasised the raising of pensions, child benefit etc in response and once again tiresomely raised the £20 billion. Clegg was suitably aggressive in response saying we had a 'list rather than an answer' and once again raised the issue of closing the loopholes that exist. Brown said 'every year we take action on loopholes' and said 'we are the party of fairness'.

Overall, it went pretty much as expected. I think Clegg had the right focus; on the tax loopholes but he showed where our soft underbelly is, if we are going to challenge Labour in it's heartlands then we need to challenge them for the mantle of 'party of fairness' and to do this we have to be aggressive locally and nationally.

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