Some thoughts on the Brown statement…
1. Cameron’s response was very good. He had varied intonation and passion – while Brown’s stutter got steadily worse as he read his constitutional proposals out like a Budget-style shopping list. I fancied I saw Cameron’s hands shake a little as he faced Prime Minister Brown for the first time – but his face showed no sign of nerves. For the many Conservatives with their head in their hands right now, this is a cause for optimism.
2. Cameron played the Scottish card straight away. He can’t vote on schools in Brown’s constituency, so why should Brown and Scottish MPS decide English policy (Scots swung the university top-up fees vote, and the foundation hospital vote). Brown’s answer wasn’t convincing. There would be “two classes of MPs” he said. Erm, there have been since Scottish devolution in 1999. Cameron asks for fairness for England, and it’s a strong theme.
3. Brown is safe in deciding that parliament can be recalled during the recess by a majority of MPs. Such clamour normally comes from the media, or a handful of lefties. Can you imagine our MPs, cocktails in hand on the beach, volunteering to back to work? Neither can Brown.
4. Giving parliament a vote on war is a ludicrous idea. Not all conflicts can be planned like a Budget. Sometimes, military strikes have to surprise the enemy. But Brown is less interested in this, and more in winning back disgruntled anti-war Labour voters.
5. Cameron was right to repeat his call for a referendum on the EU constitution. I’d like to see him pledge to put this in the next Conservative manifesto. If he wants to steal a march on Brown, this is what he can do.
6. Cameron was bang on saying that trust in politics has not been eroded by the constitutional apparatus, but by the deceit from the government which Brown jointly ran for ten years. I’d like to hear him repeat this point, time and time again. Brown is the candidate for continuity, not change, and this will become clear enough soon enough.
Things are bad for Cameron right now, and some Conservatives are briefing that they’ll be behind in the polls for six months. But Brown is very beatable. And in the exchange at the Despatch Box today, I was reminded why.