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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Brown vs Cameron: Clash of the titans
Gordon Brown and David Cameron have had their first prime minister's questions clash. How did they get on:


Gordon Brown and David Cameron

Gordon 'The Clunking Fist' Brown

Age: 56

Height: 5ft 11ins

Reach: Labour heartlands

Weight: Has gravitas but doubts about lightness of touch

Strengths: "Stalinist ruthlessness", prudence, mastery of detail, more supporters lining ring

Weaknesses: "Stalinist ruthlessness", "dourness", following Tony Blair

Wins: John McDonnell (unable to enter ring). Went distance with Blair, eventually taking over

Losses: Undefeated as prime minister - but untested

David 'The Chameleon' Cameron

Age: 40

Height: 6ft

Reach: Middle England

Weight: Opponents say "lightweight" but gets in some nifty jabs

Strengths: Modernity, flexibility - can stick with traditional guard or go southpaw on range of issues

Weaknesses: Has had at least one Black Wednesday, problems with right

Wins: David Davis in Tory leadership election. Done well in local elections since becoming Tory leader

Losses: Backbencher Quentin Davies to Mr Brown's Labour


They started by trying a bit of a love-in, slipped eventually (thankfully, for those who are not of the politically vegetarian persuasion) into their old, biting and clawing ways, but then tried to get back to consensus.

It seemed that Gordon Brown and David Cameron were trying to out do each other in the heavy, serious, furrowed-brow stakes.

It was the attempted car bombings that, understandably, prompted this new approach - sort of.

But it seemed Mr Cameron had also decided the best way to take on the great clunking fist was to deny him a clear view of his chin, while also attempting to mirror his opponent's moves.

What the Tory leader did not try was the expected line of attack, that Mr Brown was just a continuation of the old, rubbish Labour government.

New boy

The closest he got was to demand an immediate ban on an extremist Muslim group, Hizb ut Tahrir, which the government had threatened to outlaw two years ago.

The prime minister's response - that he had only been in the job for five days - drew some expressions of surprise. Had he gaffed, was he trying to deploy the new boy excuse, was this a sign of unexpected weakness?

Well, maybe. But for those who wanted to hear it, this may have been another suggestion that he was new, that he had not been around for the past decade and was still reading himself into the job.

To be sure, you don't expect to hear an experienced politician using such an excuse and there will be much debate over whether it was a good tactic or a terrible mistake.

Then, however, ex-home secretary John Reid leapt to his feet to do what he does best - and put the boot in. He was trying to be helpful but, in doing so, appeared to expose his leader's apparent ignorance.

Didn't know

He, in effect, accused Mr Cameron of attempting to play politics with the issue of banning Hizb ut Tahrir, suggesting that would play into the extremists' hands.

He had looked at this issue and decided he couldn't yet do it - not quite the line or tone Mr Brown was taking, perhaps because he didn't know.

So, at the end of the day a more evenly-matched contest than perhaps expected, as the two men danced around each other attempting to test each other's strengths and weaknesses.

And it suggests, rather than the clunking fist instantly flattening the "boy", these contests may turn out to be far more unpredictable.


Commenting on media coverage of his first clash with Mr Brown, at a music industry event in central London, Mr Cameron said: "I have just come back from the opening bout of Hoodie versus The Fist." He added: "The tedious thing about this fight is that it will have to be repeated every Wednesday until we have an election."


Former deputy Conservative PM Michael Heseltine called it a points win for David Cameron, saying that was encouraging given that Mr Brown would never have such a benign set of circumstances again. Ex-Labour leader Neil Kinnock called it a score draw.


Danny Finkelstein, who used to brief Mr Cameron's predecessor William Hague before PMQs, said: "The advantage was with David Cameron... Gordon Brown isn't as light on his feet as Tony Blair." Katie O'Donovan, formerly a special adviser to Mr Blair, said: "Gordon really stayed on what mattered on security, whereas Cameron was trying to score political points."

*For the Liberal Democrats among you, see next week's clash between the Gordon 'the clunking fist' Brown and Sir Menzies 'the Merciless' Campbell.

Brown and Cameron clash at PMQs


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