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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 September 2007, 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK
Brown's not-so-new politics
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

So this was a taste of the new politics and not a return to business as usual, then.

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown couldn't resist attack on Tories
In his first press conference since the end of the summer break - a luxury he abandoned - and the day after he promised both of the above, the prime minister was happy to answer the question: "What is good about David Cameron?"

Mr Cameron is good, apparently, because he sometimes agrees with Gordon Brown.

And that from someone accused, within the space of only two days, of nicking Mr Cameron's emphasis (if you can steal an emphasis) on school discipline and violent rap music lyrics.

Other than that, Mr Cameron has displayed a "failure of leadership" and is "caught as a prisoner of factions within his own party".

Those factions are, according to Mr Brown, led by a Mr Ancram and a Mr Portaloo (perhaps it was the Scottish accent).

Policy ladder

Of course, no political leader worth the name would be able to let pass without comment the recent troubles buffeting his opponent. So Mr Brown did not even try.

He also revealed he will be devoting the autumn and winter months to education. Or, to put it another way, he will be doing his damnedest to make sure David Cameron can't get a foot on that particular policy ladder.

David Cameron
Mr Cameron has come under fire from his own side
In fact it is being said there is already a team of Labour policy anoraks going through the Tories' latest policy review document, published just two hours before the prime minister's press conference, for juicy nuggets they can appropriate.

And, of course, Mr Brown continued the tease over the possibility of a general election within the next few weeks or months.

That again is good, old-fashioned politics. Why on earth should a prime minister help his opponents by giving them any hint whatsoever about when they would need to start renting poster hoardings, taking on extra staff or finalising manifestos?

Praising Thatcher

Similarly, he wasn't having any truck with the suggestion he might hold a presidential-style televised debate with Mr Cameron - or, presumably, Sir Menzies Campbell - during that election campaign.

A couple of decades ago he lambasted the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, for refusing to hold a TV debate with then Labour leader Neil Kinnock (although quite what Mr Kinnock had ever done to Mr Brown to deserve such a punishment remains unclear).

Now, of course, things have changed. Primarily, of course, the prime minister has changed and it is now blindingly obvious why there is no need for such a debate.

Mind you, to the likely surprise of many in the Labour party, he was also happy to praise Margaret Thatcher's conviction politics.

Probably, however, because he is a conviction politician himself while he believes, along with Mr Cameron's Tory critics, that the Conservative leader is not.

So he was praising Thatcher only to the extent it would embarrass Cameron.

Business as usual, in other words.

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04 Sep 07 |  UK Politics
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