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Last Updated: Friday, 21 December 2007, 19:33 GMT
Martha Kearney's week
By Martha Kearney
Presenter, BBC Radio 4's The World at One

Mince pies at the Number Ten press conference!

Gordon Brown
Westminster was in a festive mood this week

In my day, when I used to go during Tony Blair's time, the only refreshment served was a cup of tea and the only person who got it was the prime minister.

I'm not sure the seasonal gift has sweetened any of the coverage though, especially as some hacks were demanding mulled wine to go with the pies.

We began our week with the former Lord Chancellor Charlie Falconer in his first interview on pre-charge detention.

He has joined the Director of Public Prosecutions and the former Attorney General to oppose government plans to detain terror suspects in custody for up to 42 days without being charged.

Lord Falconer told us the plan would not make the country any safer from attack.

The political opposition seems to be growing.

Incompetence

Also on Monday we interviewed Fabian Hamilton, a normally loyal MP who voted for the Blair proposal of 90 days. He is now planning to rebel on 42.

We understand there may be others.

(Labour MPs) hope the Christmas break will mean the government will come back refreshed in the New Year -it will need to

Over the Christmas period you can hear interviews on WATO with Sir Ken Macdonald, the DPP and Lord Goldsmith on this issue.

If it is bad news for a political party to appear divided, for a government to seem incompetent is equally damaging.

This week again the running stories of discgate (this time at the Driving Standards Agency) and Northern Rock refused to go away.

The normally cloistered relationship between the Chancellor and the Governor of the Bank of England came under the spotlight with claims that Mervyn King had been talking about a lack of morale at the Treasury - which he denies.

Leadership concerns

The fact that it has now been briefed that King will get his contract renewed perhaps shows a recognition by the Treasury that good relations with the Bank are vital in this turbulent period.

On Wednesday's programme the backbencher Andrew Mackinlay came on to say that there had been some concern in the Labour ranks about Gordon Brown's leadership reflecting what many MPs are saying privately.

They hope the Christmas break will mean the government will come back refreshed in the New Year. It will need to.

There is not just the 42 day revolt but also problems ahead on women's pensions.

The normally sanguine Baroness Hollis was on Thursday's programme spitting blood at what she saw as a U-turn by the government on allowing women to top up pension payments they missed through raising families.

Mulled wine

I was not presenting on Wednesday (Brian was here) but forgot to mention the fact to my mother who was a bit concerned and rang me at half one.

No, not some sudden illness. I had arranged for the day off following our office party.

Mince pies were served but also mulled wine. It was definitely a good idea to have a lie in.

A Merry Christmas to you all.

Here are some of your comments:

The government will return refreshed in the new year. And, just like this year, they will continue with maverick reformist policies that will transform this country for the better. Have a very merry Christmas Martha and try and be less of a feral beast in the new year. Ta ta...
Justin, Bristol, England

Martha, Could you spell out for us the swing to the Tories which will be needed for Cameron to form a Government? Even a minority Government? Mince pies are all very seasonal and cute, but they don't help with the maths.
Dectora, London/UK

The detention without charge issue was always one of virility. Gordon Brown wanted to prove he could do that which his arch rival and predecessor so conspicuously couldn't. What it has turned into is a question of his Judgment - or lack of it. Just as with the election speculation he stoked up something which a more astute politician would have known was very very unlikely to get through. He did so for all the wrong reasons including:- to show the Conservatives to be less "tough" than he; and to show that he was more capable then Tony Blair. Judgment is the single most important thing a leader needs - and when you are increasingly perceived to have none - it undermines everything you do.
Max Wieliczko, London

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