Page last updated at 12:10 GMT, Wednesday, 8 October 2008 13:10 UK

PMQs: Unity sought amid a crisis

Prime minister's questions sketch
By David Thompson
Political correspondent, BBC News

Gordon Brown at PMQs
Despite the sombre mood, Gordon Brown landed a blow on the Tories

The first PMQs after the summer recess and politicians on all sides are relaxed, refreshed - and ready to tear lumps out of each other.

Except that as Gordon Brown reminds us, with what now looks like masterly understatement, we live in serious times, and those times call for serious people.

Which presented a ticklish problem for David Cameron.

How to maintain a front of co-operation and national unity in the teeth of the global financial crisis while, at the same time, trying to strangle the prime minister's political revival at birth?

In the end, the Tory leader tried to make it less about the banks and more about us - the savers, mortgage-holders and small businesses.

His point was that it was essential that the big boys don't take the money and run - that fat cats don't cream off big bonuses as a reward for failure.

For someone who said he supported the government, he did a pretty good job of making it look soft on the City.

Gordon Brown kept his powder dry until David Cameron asked his last question - then nailed him.

He taunted the Tory leader: "I have to remind him about what he said on the Andrew Marr Show: 'What you won't hear from me this week is the sort of easy, cheap lines, beating up the market system and bashing financiers'."

Ouch.

Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, said he "wholeheartedly" supported the government's plan.

He then, equally wholeheartedly, made the point that when a ship is sinking you don't argue about who has steered it into an iceberg.

In a topsy-turvy world, it was almost reassuring to know that some things never change - and that at PMQs, the hand of help nearly always conceals a stiletto too.


PRIME MINISTER'S QUESTIONS

Gordon Brown The Full Story
All the action with key points, analysis and reaction from Gordon Brown's weekly grilling
BACKGROUND
PAST PMQS

June 2008 -
 
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