Is this how the Tories will always trap him?
It has, as predicted, been a gripping afternoon and on balance I think that the government has lost some ground. I thought that the Speaker, Michael Martin, made the best of a very bad hand and his frank explanations of where things went wrong will have bought him some more time.
But for me the really intriguing element was the way that senior Tory figures managed to trap Gordon using what has become the tried and tested simple question trick. You put something forward that it is blindingly obvious that Brown should agree with – in this case backing Martin’s new rule about the police always needing a search warrant – and then watch as the PM tries to avoid giving an answer.
Michael Howard launched into this this and then was backed up by several senior colleagues – and all Brown did was get angrier and angrier. Martin had announced the new rule on police entry into parliament without search warrants and it would not have compromised anything to have just said yes.
It was exactly the same with the “Baby P” PMQs a few weeks ago. Cameron put forward a simple point that any reasonable person would agree with – and was something that Ed Balls announced a few hours later. In that case Brown, like this afternoon, Brown equivocated and made things worse for himself.
Just watch – the Tories will use this trick again. It unbalances Brown and makes him appear shifty.
In a general election campaign there will be times where spontaneity is required – Brown has about sixteen months to learn it.