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Last Updated: Friday, 12 October 2007, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Commons grilling for Gordon Brown
By David Porter
Westminster correspondent, BBC Scotland

Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown faced a turbulent time after he returned to the Commons

Say what you like about Westminster but when it does open for business it certainly knows how to create a story or two.

This week MPs and Peers returned to work after their 12-week summer break and plunged straight into it.


First day back on Monday and they had a lot to chew over, not least the fact at the weekend the prime minister had confirmed there would be NO early election.

After suffering a battering in the weekend press, Gordon Brown decided to tackle the accusation that he had "bottled it" head on.

At a Downing Street news conference he denied that he had changed his mind about calling a snap contest because the opinion polls had taken a turn for the worse for Labour.

(This was despite the fact that an eagle-eyed cameraman saw and filmed a large note on the PM's lectern saying "saw the polls").

He knew he was in for a grilling and wasn't disappointed. His tactic was, in effect, to hold his hands up and say 'mea culpa' for letting the election speculation continue for so long.

A couple of hours later the prime minister was in the Commons telling MPs how he planned to bring British troops home from Iraq

By next spring the number will have halved to 2,500 based in and around Basra.

Some strategists are concerned that could leave those out there exposed but ministers insist no risks will be taken.


This was the day many had speculated the prime minister would choose to go to Buckingham Palace to see the Queen prior to calling an election.

House of Commons
MPs and Peers returned to work after their twelve week summer break

Instead of using a statement on taxation and spending by the chancellor Alistair Darling as a launch pad for a snap campaign, the combined Pre-Budget Report and Comprehensive Spending Review turned into a classic case of political clothes stealing.

Mr Darling (with a grinning prime minister sitting next to him) unveiled plans on inheritance tax, airline taxes and taxing rich foreigners (non doms in the jargon) which looked remarkably similar to the ones announced by the Tories at their conference a week earlier

Cue plenty of shouting, name calling, claim and counter claim in the Commons. It's the type of things MPs love, the public thinks is silly, and it generates more heat than light, but what the heck? Our elected representatives get to enjoy themselves.


The first Prime Minister's Questions since July. On the last occasion they met, the prime minister gave David Cameron a good kicking.

This time the Tory leader was more than happy to return the compliment. By general consent, and to use a technical political term, he gave Mr Brown a comprehensive duffing up.

Also present in the Commons chamber was Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond. He remains an MP and as Holyrood is in recess thought he would make the trip down to Westminster.

He failed to get called by the Speaker to ask the prime minister a question but that didn't prevent him dropping a bomb shell of his own.

Mr Salmond produced documents showing that Defra, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, had last Friday planned to give farmers in Scotland 8m as compensation for the foot-and-mouth outbreak in England.

Foot and mouth sign
The row over foot and mouth funding may rumble on

By the time Environment Secretary Hilary Benn made the statement to MPs on Monday any reference to money for Scotland had disappeared.

The inference, according to Mr Salmond, was that the Treasury withdrew the funding after the election was called off.

Despite denials by the UK Government, it resulted in a huge political rammy. Everyone put their tuppence worth in.

Scottish farmers threatened to sue ministers in London and UK government sources accused the SNP administration in Edinburgh of leaking confidential documents and spoke about a breach of trust between Westminster and Holyrood.

This row is still rumbling on and looks to have a fair bit of life left in it yet.

So one week back and it has been exhausting. At this rate the politicians and those of us who follow them will need another holiday to get over it all.

Tories say farewell to Blackpool
04 Oct 07 |  Scotland
Struck down by 'election fever'
28 Sep 07 |  Scotland
Ming the Merciless strikes back
21 Sep 07 |  Scotland
Tea, scones and smiles at meeting
20 Jul 07 |  Scotland
Westminster fog begins to clear
13 Jul 07 |  Scotland
Name calling in Commons playground
06 Jul 07 |  Scotland
Wedding bells sound at Whitehall
29 Jun 07 |  Scotland


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