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The Full Story: PM's questions


The Daily Politics' analysis of Prime Minister's Questions.

1330 That's it for this week's live coverage of PMQs. The session was not as explosive as might have been expected. But then again, it wasn't a damp squib. Perhaps a fuse has been lit by Ms Blears' resignation. Will it be snuffed out before it is too late for Mr Brown? On that note, it just remains for me to say please do join us again next Wednesday.

1321 On BBC Radio 4's The World at One, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn says Mr Brown's performance at PMQs was strong. Shadow housing minister Grant Shapps says cabinet ministers are leaving a "sinking ship" and that Mr Brown's team are already briefing against Ms Blears. Meanwhile, Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey says the government is divided at a time when it needs to show strong leadership.

1313 Jacqui Smith, who is quitting as home secretary, pays tribute to Ms Blears. The government is "worse off" without her, she tells World at One. The Labour Party is not panicking, she adds.

1311 Labour's George Mudie tells the World at One he cannot see a party leadership election being called as the mood is against it.

1311 Labour MP Sir Stuart tells BBC Radio 4's World at One it goes against normal protocol for Hazel Blears to quit just ahead of the European elections. He says he is "disappointed" and that such actions are "irrational".

Vince Cable
1305 Lib Dem deputy leader Vince Cable - an occasional turn himself at PMQs - says Mr Brown was more authoritative in the chamber than for some time, but still says that his authority within his own party is draining away.

1255 The latest Labour "big beast" to take to the airwaves to defend the prime minister is David Blunkett. He says the government reshuffle will "re-energise" the government. He warns Westminster against getting "out of touch" with people's real concerns. Asked about a return to government he says he is not seeking a return to cabinet but says he wants to help Gordon Brown however he can.

1253 If the expenses saga continues too long, the UK's international reputation will take a "real hit", says Lord Mandelson, who has been tipped by some to become foreign secretary in the reshuffle.

Lord Mandelson
1252 Business Secretary Lord Mandelson tells the BBC there are "different reasons" for each ministerial resignation. He says Jacqui Smith has been exposed to "terrible pressure" by the media over her use of expenses. He adds that that no-one could say Mr Brown is in trouble, given his performance at PMQs. The government must "keep our nerve", Lord Mandelson says.

1249 Former Home Secretary David Blunkett says people wanted Ms Blears' resignation to be announced in a "different manner". He says she and outgoing Home Secretary Jacqui Smith have been "terrific ministers".

Geoff Hoon
1248 Geoff Hoon is asked about the fact Labour backbenchers have told Daily Politics reporter Anne Alexander that there is an email going round seeking support for Alan Johnson to replace Gordon Brown as prime minister. Mr Hoon says they may have said it but in his view a revolt was "highly unlikely" and that Labour MPs recognise Mr Brown is the right person to lead people through difficult economic times.

Nick Robinson
1244 Nick Robinson says all focus will now be on what Mr Brown does with Mr Darling. The PM is "in a hopelessly difficult bind", he tells Daily Politics. Many people do not like Schools Secretary Ed Balls, widely touted as Mr Darling's successor, he adds.

Caroline Spelman
1242 Shadow Commons leader Caroline Spelman says the "burning issue" is that the public has not had a chance to vote for Mr Brown. People are "fed up" and want a general election, she adds.

Geoff Hoon
1241 Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon tells Daily Politics he would not move Chancellor Alistair Darling in a reshuffle. He adds that he does not want to be prime minister himself!

1236 BBC political editor Nick Robinson tells BBC Two's Daily Politics Mr Brown's situation is not like Margaret Thatcher's in 1990. But we "simply do not know" whether he has the cabinet's backing, he adds. He says Hazel Blears has effectively triggered a Labour leadership election.

1233 Senior Labour MP Sir Stuart Bell attacks the Conservatives' policy on Europe. The PM gladly joins in. And that is the end of this week's session.

1232 After a Tory question on domestic violence, the PM says the government is working to deal with the problem.

1231 Yet another friendly question, putting the recession in a "global context".

1230 A Labour MP asks what can be done at the forthcoming G8 summit to halt climate change. Mr Brown says the government will work to get large countries such as China on side. He gets another dig in at the Tories, saying their planned European alliance with parties in Poland and the Czech Republic would make it harder to achieve EU-wide change if they gained power.

Ben Wright
1228 From BBC political correspondent Ben Wright: There was a throaty cheer from the Tories as David Cameron stood up. His party's pumped up. But today the Conservative leader may think that he let the PM slip away. And by the end of their encounter Labour MPs were cheering too. David Cameron said the PM's authority was shot to pieces and the government dysfunctional. But Gordon Brown calmly praised the work of his departing cabinet colleagues and said there was big work to do fixing the economy and restoring faith in politics. He also swerved around the Tories' trap of asking him to sign Alistair Darling's political death warrant. The prime minister's tone was confident, the smile relatively relaxed. He managed to parry Nick Clegg's charge that the government's crippled by indecision and mocked him for saying the Lib Dems and the Tories were now the only political choice people have. Gordon Brown is still in enormous trouble, but this week's PMQs did him no harm.

1227 Another friendly question from a Labour MP on expenses - asking the PM to focus on MPs who have second jobs. Mr Brown responds by attacking shadow cabinet members over such employment.

1226 The mood is quieter than might have been expected, given this morning's developments. In response to a question from an SNP MP about what he called growing inequality, Mr Brown says the government has taken millions of people out of poverty.

1225 Lib Dem Paul Rowen asks why only two people have received help from a mortgage payment aid scheme. Mr Brown says this is incorrect and that government policy is expected to cut the number of home repossessions from levels they might have otherwise reached.

1222 Mr Brown pays tribute to those involved in the 1944 D-Day landings and the rest of the effort to win the Second World War.

1221 Veteran Tory Sir Peter Tapsell asks a long, slowly worded question on expenses. He says the PM is "almost uniquely unsuited" to play a "latterday Thomas Jefferson". His lengthy delivery provokes jeers from across the chamber. Mr Brown says everyone wants expenses abuses to stop.

1220 Mr Clegg says Labour is finished and says the only choice now is between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems - to laughter from the Labour benches. Mr Brown says "the Liberals" have had the same message at every election he has fought.

Nick Clegg
1217 Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg says the government is in "total meltdown" and says there is "danger" for democracy when people feel there is no-one in charge. Again, Mr Brown says policy is what counts and says the government is taking the action people want to see.

1216 Labour's Andrew Miller asks a friendly question over the government's "help" for Vauxhall. Mr Brown lists the actions his ministers have taken and has a swipe at the Tories' economic policies.

1214 Mr Cameron repeats the question about Mr Darling's future. Again, Mr Brown accuses the Tories of having no policies. Mr Cameron replies that, if this is so, the PM should call an election. The government is "collapsing", he adds. Mr Brown says he is dealing with the problems the country faces and gets some welcome backing from Labour MPs chorusing the word "nothing" when he lists the areas he says the Tories have no policies in.

1212 Mr Cameron turns to the economy and the chancellor, Alistair Darling. He asks whether the chancellor will still be in his post in a week's time. The PM lists Mr Darling's actions as chancellor and accuses Mr Cameron of being "incapable" of dealing with big issues.

1210 Mr Cameron urges the PM to guarantee there will be no further resignations ahead of his planned reshuffle, which will probably take place at some point around the weekend. Mr Brown says the government is working to clean up MPs' expenses and end the recession and says all sides should acknowledge the pressures some MPs and their families have been facing.

1209 Speaker Michael Martin tells Labour MPs not to shout down Mr Cameron, saying there will be no PMQs otherwise.

1208 Mr Cameron says Mr Brown is "in denial". He says Ms Blears' timing is a "direct challenge" to the PM's authority. Mr Brown says all parties have come under pressure over expenses and have issues that need sorting out.

David Cameron
1207 David Cameron is up. He leads on the ministerial resignations. He urges the PM to accept that his ability to lead the cabinet has "disappeared". Mr Brown pays tribute to his colleagues' contributions to government.

1205 The SNP's Mike Weir calls recent events - the cabinet trying to reshuffle itself as he put it - "pathetic". Mr Brown says the government is taking action on the big issues. Already there is much murmuring.

Gordon Brown
1203 The PM also condemns the killers of British hostage Edwin Dyer, who was kidnapped in Niger and held in Mali.

1202 We are off. Mr Brown is outlining his engagements. He pays tribute to service personnel killed in Afghanistan.

Nick Robinson
1200 BBC political editor Nick Robinson tells BBC Two's Daily Politics that Europe minister Caroline Flint - a close ally and friend of Ms Blears - will not be resigning today. It comes to something when a minister not resigning is seen as good news for the prime minister.

1158 The last PMQs I can remember being this anticipated was in 2001 shortly after Peter Mandelson, then Northern Ireland secretary, resigned. An ashen-faced Tony Blair was subjected to a tirade of mockery from then Tory leader William Hague. Some critics said he overdid it. Mr Cameron might have to be careful.

1156 Not long to go. The atmosphere is tense. Goodness knows how Mr Brown's PMQs preparation team must be feeling.

1151 So, what will David Cameron ask? The obvious line to take is to urge Mr Brown to call a general election. Expect him to use the resignations of Ms Blears, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and some of their ministerial colleagues to back up his argument that the government is in chaos. Or will he shock us and avoid what he himself calls "Punch and Judy" politics. Maybe a question about the EU ahead of Thursday's European elections? You never know.

1149 With about a quarter of an hour to go until PMQs, Northern Ireland questions are taking place. Quite a few Tory frontbenchers are in place in the Commons chamber.

1148 The BBC's James Landale suggests the opposition parties might consciously not go too far in attacking the PM, for fear of provoking sympathy for his predicament, facing - as he is - the MPs' expenses scandal and a major economic recession.

Ben Wright
1147 From BBC political correspondent Ben Wright: One Labour MP just told me that today will be Gordon Brown's last PMQs. Far-fetched? These are extraordinary, febrile and unpredictable times in Westminster. Imagine the scene in the Downing Street bunker this morning as staffers prepped with the PM for this lunchtime's Commons encounter. Hazel Blears has just detonated her career on the eve of elections that everyone in the Labour Party expects to be awful. The post-election cabinet reshuffle looks like it's unravelling before it's begun. And waiting in the Commons chamber are panicking Labour MPs and two opposition leaders demanding a general election. Gordon Brown dislikes prime minister's questions at the best of times. And these are starting to feel like the worst of times.

Hazel Blears
1145 The news of Ms Blears' resignation comes just a day ahead of the European and county council elections, when Labour is expected to have a bad time - or perhaps that should read "even worse". The Commons chamber is filling up. The Tories say Ms Blears has timed her resignation for maximum effect. She might have succeeded if that is the case.

1143 Wow. This has been the mother of all mornings at Westminster and now Gordon Brown has to face the excitement of PMQs. It is not an enviable position to be in. Expect Tory leader David Cameron to go for the prime minister today. It won't be pretty.

1140 Hello and welcome to our live coverage of prime minister's questions. This week's clash in the Commons is as widely anticipated as any in recent years as pressure mounts on Gordon Brown. The European and English local elections tomorrow might have been expected to dominate proceedings but Communities Secretary Hazel Blears' decision to announce her resignation has changed all that. We'll bring you all the action and all the developments as they happen and all the reaction and analysis from the BBC's team of correspondents and guests on Daily Politics, the BBC News Channel and BBC Radio 4's World at One.

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