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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 November 2007, 13:11 GMT
Brown on the rack
Prime minister's questions sketch
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

If Gordon Brown thought his "we're-all-in-this-together" approach to the dodgy donations row was going to blunt David Cameron's attacks, he was sorely disappointed.

David Cameron
Mr Cameron (pictured during a previous question time) called for a police investigation
Westminster watchers were struggling to recall the last time a sitting prime minister was subjected to such a stinging character reading. (OK, at least until they recalled some of Tony Blair's darkest days.)

Still, these exchanges had the air of something special - as if they might just be a significant feature on a genuinely shifting political landscape.

They suggested events were moving fast and, indeed, outside the Commons the statement from Mr Brown's fundraiser Jon Mendelsohn confirming he knew about the dodgy donations was raising as many questions as it answered.

Meanwhile, back in the rowdy chamber, Mr Cameron was going for it.

Mr Brown, he suggested, was a control freak with no control, a man whose integrity was now under serious question, whose arrogance stopped him taking the latest crises seriously enough and who was, frankly, simply not cut out for the job he has wanted for over a decade.

If he really wanted to prove how seriously he was taking the donations affair, he should call in the police, said Mr Cameron.

No end

Time and again, the prime minister tried to extend his big tent approach to politics to cover the funding row.

He was, he suggested, just as appalled as Mr Cameron but, in the interests of all parties, it was right there were investigations and then moves to put things right.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Mr Brown (pictured at a previous question time) said it was essential to put things right
The message was simple. The finger doesn't just point at the Labour party it points at all parties and he just happens to be the man in the hot seat when it all erupted - but he is ready to shoulder the burden of taking action to sort it out.

He didn't quite say he was acting for the greater public good in all this, but it was there for those who wanted to hear it.

Similarly he did not mention controversial Tory donor Lord Ashcroft - that was left to a backbencher later in the proceedings.

None of it, however, altered the fact that David Cameron delivered one of the most comprehensive rubbishings of his opponent since Mr Brown entered 10 Downing Street.

The prime minister also suffered the indignity of being the butt of the joke of the day, from Lib Dem acting leader Vince Cable.

To loud laughter he noted the Mr Brown's "remarkable transformation in the last few weeks from Stalin to Mr Bean, creating chaos out of order rather than order out of chaos".

Labour backbenchers left the chamber looking downcast, perhaps wondering how it had all come to this.

Far from having a new leader who has moved them onto fresh new turf, they are back in the mud, wrestling with some familiar crises.

None of them, it appeared, believed this affair was anywhere near its end.



PRIME MINISTER'S QUESTIONS

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