I wondered this morning whether the words "I am sorry" would pass Gordon Brown's lips over the emails sent by his (now former) chief strategist Damian McBride, which planned to smear a number of Conservative politicians.
Well, a good five days after the Conservatives first demanded such an apology, it appears to have been forthcoming.
The BBC is reporting that during his visit to Glasgow, where the Cabinet is meeting, the Prime Minister has said:
"I am sorry about what happened... I wrote to those people affected, expressing deep regret, and the person responsible went immediately... I take full responsibility for what happened. That's why the person who was responsible went."
Nadine Dorries - one of the MPs who was subject of the smear emails - is still unsatisfied. PoliticsHome records what she told Sky News:
Yesterday, shadow Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude wrote this letter to Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell asking a number of questions raised by the Damian McBride "Smear-gate" affair.
I am seeking a full text of the letter.The full text of the scanned letter is at the bottom of this post, but fails to give direct answers to a number of the questions posed by Francis Maude. I imagine there is still mileage in pursuing answers through parliamentary questions and FoI requests.
Labour's painting of the Conservatives as "Tory Toffs" spectacularly backfired at the Crewe and Nantwich by-election last year.
Yet just last week - pre-"Smeargate" - there was speculation that Labour was planning a series of attacks for the general election campaign which would depict David Cameron and George Osborne as "rich toffs who haven’t a clue how ordinary voters live".
Such a strategy was questioned by The Spectator's Peter Hoskin on the grounds Labour ministers claiming tens of thousands of pounds in second home allowances (in some cases when they already enjoyed a third grace-and-favour home courtesy of the taxpayer) could just as easily be shown to be out of touch with "ordinary voters".
But in the light of the events of the last five days, Iain Martin at the Daily Telegraph reckons that such a line of attack on well-heeled Conservative politicians is "at least blunted, and possibly decommissioned" because the Tories (and the media for that matter) could claim that it was a return to the discredited McBride school of political strategy:
"Carefully handled, the 'aloof out of touch Tories' tag had serious potential and the Cameroons know it. Now every time a Labour person steers in that direction, the Conservatives can shake their heads and say to the public: 'look, same old Labour dirty tricks and personal attacks'."
He adds that, in his view, there is an irony, since claiming that the Conservatives don't understand voters' concerns could be "very powerful" if a Cameron Government were forced to make unpopular spending cuts.
Do you think that the public or the media would let Labour get away with deploying the "Tory Toff" attack in the future - and would they take notice even if they did?
Or will it just be Kevin Maguire and the class warriors at the Daily Mirror who desperately continue to pursue that line?
Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude MP, has written a letter to the Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell asking eight questions relating to the Damian McBride revelations. The letter is published in full below:
Downing Street will be furious that Guido Fawkes' huge scoop - that started to emerge on Saturday - has still not been closed down. It is still leading this morning's broadcast bulletins and newspapers. Any advantage that Brown may have hoped to gain from the G20 summit has been sunk in Damian McBride's sludge of smears.
There are still legs in the story, too. Here are the unresolved issues:
The inadequacy of Gordon Brown's letters: Yesterday, just before 5pm, the news broke that Brown was to issue letters of apology but it now seems that the content of the letters fell short of what was spun. The Prime Minister's letters described the whole affair as a "matter of deep regret" but they haven't gone far enough according to Tory sources. As Iain Dale told Sky News: "Tony Blair would have held his hands up, said sorry, and we would all have thought better of him for doing it."
The position of Derek Draper: The editor of LabourList is still in place. Over the weekend he was defending Damian McBride. John Prescott has called for him to go and today's FT reports that senior Labour figures now intend to give the website a very wide berth: "“You won’t be seeing any of them going near it again,” said a Labour figure."
The position of Tom Watson: The Sun urges the Prime Minister to sack the "poisonous" Tom Watson MP - currently a Cabinet Offioce minister - who plotted against Tony Blair and who has a reputation as a "ruthless political hardman". Watson, The Sun Says, "is a stain on the Prime Minister’s judgment and his government’s credibility."
A new line of complaint from Frances Osborne: The Shadow Chancellor's wife - one of Mr McBride's targets - has, reports The Telegraph, complained to the Press Complaints Commission about the ways in which certain newspapers repeated the fabricated stories against her.
"This McBride has been in charge, since September, of government strategy. He is meant to be coming up with ways of helping people through the recession. And what do we have? A load of pathetic and invented smears, with McBride egging on the blogs to mount false attacks not just on MPs but on their wives. It is contemptible, and it is a function of the bunker-like desperation in which the Prime Minister and his allies now find themselves. In their relentless, brutal, tribal viciousness they are no longer interested in doing good for the country, but only in doing down their opponents. They have lost their moral case to govern the country. They must go."
The BBC also reports that the Prime Minister has requested that the code of conduct for advisers be tightened up to prevent any similar incident.
Nadine Dorries MP, one of the Tories targeted by Damian McBride's smear operation, told the Radio 4 PM programme that she would be pleased to receive a letter of apology from Gordon Brown but talk of revising the code of conduct governing advisers was just more spin. What most needed to be done was implementation of the existing code.
Nadine Dorries - who, with Chris Grayling, has been leading on 'smeargate' in the media for the Conservatives - is right. It's not the letter of the code that is the key problem. It's the culture of New Labour. The personal attacks began in opposition when John Major's government was subject to a massive onslaught... continued throughout the Blair years against all critics... characterised the briefings by Brownites against Blair... and culminated in this latest episode. One gets the feeling that Mr Brown is sorry but sorry for being found out rather than for any hurt his operation has caused. Tim Montgomerie
LOSER: GORDON BROWN The Prime Minister cannot escape responsibility for the McBride emails. As Jonathan blogged yesterday, the politics of spin and smear aren't a bolt on extra to the Brown-Blair years but have been in their DNA. In The Sun Trevor Kavanagh blames McBride's master for his behaviour: "There's no such thing as a badly behaved dog — only a badly trained dog. Damian “Mad Dog” McBride was bred to kill. And he was obedient to one master — Gordon Brown. McBride, alias “McPoison”, was recruited from the Treasury by the then Chancellor, who was impressed by his natural aggression. The PM likes to be seen as a bookish intellectual, a Son of the Manse devoted to “the right thing”. In fact he spends more of his remorseless energy plotting against perceived enemies — Labour and Tory — than on making Britain great again."
WINNER: GUIDO FAWKES He's not everyone's cup of tea and Ridley Grove warns the Right against getting too close to him but Guido has undoubtedly masterminded Britain's biggest new media coup. We may never know how he got hold of the incriminating emails but he cleverly maximised their impact. He sat on them for a period and then with all the cunning of a great military strategist released them over the usually quiet Easter weekend, after teasing the world about their content and then using the biggest Sunday newspapers to expose the dark heart of Brown's Downing Street.
LOSER: POLITICS The events of the weekend have, of course, caused most damage to Labour but coming on top of public fury at MPs' use of expenses they will have contributed to the sense that politics in Britain is fundamentally broken.
WINNER: TOM HARRIS MP AND LABOURHOME There were a number of Labour bloggers who quickly distanced themselves from Derek Draper and Damian McBride but two stand out. Tom Harris MP and LabourHome's Alex Hilton. Tom Harris wrote: "We screwed up, big time. We have no-one — absolutely no-one at all — to blame for this but ourselves. The damage the Labour Party and the government have sustained this last 24 hours has been entirely self-inflicted. And the people behind this sordid little mess owe everyone named in these emails a very public apology." LabourHome also quickly called on Downing Street to fire its attack dogs.
LOSER: THE DAILY TELEGRAPH'S POLITICAL TEAM Cheekily using The Telegraph's own website Guido has accused The Telegraph of betraying sources, breaking confidences and even breaching a signed non-disclosure agreement. Its Saturday front page story seemed to be an exercise in damage limitation by Downing Street and Damian McBride.
AND WAS THE BLOGOSPHERE AN OVERALL WINNER OR LOSER? As well as proving that the blogosphere is now a force in UK politics there's a danger that the weekend also confirms the view of many that the blogosphere is a place of gossip and tittle-tattle. Believing that all blogs are the same is like saying all magazines or newspapers or television programmes are the same. Blogs are as different from each other as Nuts is different from The Economist. As well as gossip the blogosphere is also home to intelligence that shames the old media. UK Polling Report, for example, provides a Rolls Royce guide to opinion polls. Slugger O'Toole offers indispensable commentary on Northern Ireland. And for military strategy Defence of the Realm is unmissable.
It has now been 24 hours since shadow home secretary Chris Grayling first demanded an explanation from Gordon Brown about the McBride affair, which became a fully-blown demand for an apology once the extent of the content of the emails was known.
Shadow foreign secretary William Hague has now weighed in, reiterating the call for an apology from Brown an a full inquiry, and wanting a promise that Damian McBride will not be allowed to return in a similar post in the future..
He told Sky News:
"We need a thorough investigation
into exactly who knew what and whether there was a systematic attempt to
smear the opposition."
Through his spokesman, David Cameron - said to be "absolutely furious" - has also echoed those sentiments.
And yet there is still silence from Downing Street.
How long before Gordon Brown is forced to issue a statement and/or face a camera to apologise and give that explanation?
Meanwhile, Harwich MP Douglas Carswell is on the case of Tom Watson, the Cabinet Office minister who was said to have been copied in on some of the emails. Mr Carswell wants to know from Watson the extent of his knowledge of the project McBride was working on and whether he at any stage sought to discourage him from pursuing it.
Mr Watson is, of course, Minister for the Civil Service and ought to have been well-versed in precisely what Mr McBride should and shouldn't have been doing.
Mr Watson said he had known nothing of the "completely
inappropriate" messages and had no involvement in discussions to create
the Red Rag site.
"The first I was aware of the e-mail conversation that led to Damian
McBride's resignation was when these were made known to Downing Street
by national newspapers who had been given them by Paul Staines," he
No surprise that one political story dominates today's newspapers and that is the resignation of Damian McBride as political and communications adviser to Gordon Brown.
After some impressive groundwork from Guido Fawkes, who brought the story to the attention of the mainstream media, it became apparent that civil servant Mr McBride had written emails from his Downing Street office, during working hours, paid for by the taxpayer, using his government email address, which made a series of shameful smears against various Opposition politicians.
A statement issued yesterday indicated that Gordon Brown took the view that there was "no place in politics" for the dissemination of the kind of material with which Mr McBride was involved.
If only it were that simple for the Prime Minister to draw a line under the activities of one individual and claim that it was an isolated incident.
Labour came to office in 1997 on the back of crying sleaze against John Major's Government at every opportunity. Yet what we have seen from them in power amounts to a culture of spin and obsession with trampling its opponents which amounts to sleaze of the very worst kind.
The truth is that the McBride emails are by no means the first time that we have seen poisonous character assassination of those who were not signed up to the Labour agenda - be they people who exposed government shortcomings, political opponents, or even fellow Labour figures who fell out of favour.
"The Prime Minister has accepted Mr McBride's resignation. Neither the Prime Minister, nor anybody else in Downing St, had knowledge of these emails. It
is the Prime Minister's view that there is no place in politics for the
dissemination or publication of material of this kind, which is why it
is right that Mr McBride and Mr Draper took the decision not to publish
this material and regrettable that others are choosing to do so."
But as far as Chris Grayling - shadow home secretary and the senior Conservative attack dog - is concerned, the matter is far from over. He immediately issued a statement in which he demanded an explanation of events from Gordon Brown:
whole episode has been quite disgraceful. This resignation is a clear
admission that Gordon Brown's team at Number 10 were involved in a
deliberate attempt to spread unpleasant false rumours about opposition
politicians. Gordon Brown needs to provide a clear explanation about what happened and who else was involved."
Appearing on Sky News a short while ago, Mr Grayling reiterated these points, demanding a "proper investigation" and a "full and proper explanation" from the Prime Minister as to who else in Downing Street was involved and who else knew about the emails.
He added that he regarded the above Downing Street statement as "dismissive" and that the affair was more serious than a storm in a teacup, involving as it did a "structured attempt" to put out scurrilous rumours about Opposition politicians coming from "the heart of Gordon Brown's communications centre".
Meanwhile, the News of the World has confirmed that it will tomorrow reveal the "sensational" details contained in Damian McBride's emails and show that the plan to smear a number of senior Tories was "far more sophisticated than McBride or Draper have claimed and was close to completion."
According to the News of the World, the emails "show McBride and Draper schemed to spread false malicious stories that:
Opposition leader David Cameron had an embarrassing illness
Shadow Chancellor George Osborne's wife was "emotionally fragile" just because she appeared upset at parties
A Tory MP used his position to get publicity for lover’s business
Involved allegations about female Tory MP Nadine Dorries and another named MP."
The Prime Minister has apparently said that there is no place in politics for dissemination or publication of material of this kind but he has presided over a staff team long associated with these smear tactics. We'll get the grisly details in the Sunday newspapers and they will be grisly.
Derek Draper was just on Sky News trying to suggest that (alleged) hacking into his email system is the real issue. He is defending McBride as a good servant of the Labour Party. Extraordinary.
6.30pm update: Damian McBride has released the following resignation statement:
"I am shocked and appalled that, however they were obtained, these e-mails have been put into the public domain by Paul Staines. When
Derek Draper originally suggested using a website to compete with the
kind of material seen regularly on the Guido Fawkes blog, he asked me
in a personal capacity to write up some of the stories doing the rounds
"Derek and I decided in the end that this
website was the wrong thing to do, and that Derek should not take his
online efforts down to the level of Guido Fawkes and his Tory backers. I
have already apologised for the inappropriate and juvenile content of
my e-mails, and the offence they have caused, but I did not want these
stories in the public domain - it is because Paul Staines has put them
there, and I am sickened that he has done so.
all know that when a backroom adviser becomes the story, their position
becomes untenable, so I have willingly offered my resignation. It
has been an absolute privilege to work for Gordon Brown and the Labour
government in the Treasury and in Downing Street, they will always have
my full support, and I regret any embarrassment I have caused them."
What is remarkable is that his prime concern appears to be that the emails reached the public domain, rather than concentrating on a showing a little contrition for the fact that they were written in the first place.
I suggest you keep a close eye on Guido Fawkes' blog this weekend. Guido alleges that a Downing Street operation, co-ordinated by Damian McBride - the Prime Minister's political and press adviser - has attempted to smear Conservative MPs, including George Osborne (and possibly David Cameron himself). Iain Dale describes the operation as "Nixonian". In a pre-emptive rebuttal Downing Street is trying to suggest that only McBride was involved. A spokesman for Number 10 told the BBC:
"Neither the prime minister nor anybody else in Downing Street, except the author, knew anything about any of these private emails. The author of these emails has apologised for their juvenile and inappropriate nature and for the embarrassment caused. All staff will be reminded of the appropriate use of Number 10 resources."
Not so says Guido. He blogs that a "government minister" was also involved and, of course, LabourList's Derek Draper. It is all completely believable. For years the team around Gordon Brown briefed heavily against Tony Blair. That Downing Street is still pursuing the politics of character assassination is all too plausible. If the Sunday newspapers reveal the full nature of the "juvenile and inappropriate" emails from within Downing Street it is difficult to see the key players keeping their jobs.
Despite the very difficult last 48 hours the mood at a mass gathering of MPs and candidates last night for a big dinner was said to be good. The Daily Mail and Sun have both swung into action today - The Mail rightly suggesting that the potential scandal is really Peter Mandelson's links with Oleg Deripaska and The Sun complaining about the BBC's biased coverage.
Daily Mail leader: "[The George Osborne affair] is no cash-for-peerages or Formula 1 scandal. There is no
suggestion that Mr Osborne actually did anything remotely illegal. The
fact is neither he nor the Tory Party accepted a penny from Mr
Deripaska. Indeed, even if he had asked for a donation - which he hotly
denies - that would not have been against the law... If there is to be
an inquiry, it should be into the far more serious question of whether
Peter Mandelson allowed his friendship with Mr Deripaska to influence
EU policy on aluminium tariffs? After all, we know that a decision
taken when Lord Mandelson was EU Trade Commissioner benefited Mr
Deripaska's companies to the tune of £50million a year."
The Sun Says: "The integrity of the BBC is coming under question for the way it
has treated the case of the Russian billionaire and his British
contacts. Hundreds of viewers are complaining of unbalanced reporting —
and with good reason. According to its own internal memo, hundreds of
listeners accused the Corporation of bias against the Tories — pointing
out that the party received NO cash at all. And it’s strange that the
BBC only went into overdrive on the story AFTER George Osborne’s name
was linked to oligarch Oleg Deripaska. When just Labour’s Peter
Mandelson was involved it boasts it resisted making much of any
allegations. Strange, that. And reason enough for their own enquiry
into left-wing bias."
Our first reaction to the above story in tomorrow's Times was to recoil. Why on earth is Michael Gove talking to one of the most controversial figures from the Blair years? Our second reaction was to appreciate that Lord Levy was a significant influence on the Academy Schools initiative - an initiative that the Conservatives are determined to extend. He also remains a significant figure within Britain's Jewish and charitable communities. We can't help but come back to our first reaction, however. Is Lord Levy really a figure we should be associating ourselves with?
"As I write, the pointy-headed geniuses at Cameron Towers are drawing up our programme for Government.
They’re looking for good ideas. So here’s one. But to work, it needs the help of ConservativeHome readers.
It’s as follows.
In 1997, Labour launched a public enquiry into BSE. I’ve spoken to some of those involved. They say that it was carried out by the book and to the rules – but also that its purpose was blatantly party political.
I’m not suggesting that the next Conservative Government should act in a similar spirit – dear me, no. But it’s surely fair to ask what public enquiries, if any, such a Government should set up after it takes office?
This is where you can help. All suggestions welcome in the thread below…"
David Cameron's reaction Peter Hain's resignation:
"It's the right decision, but it shouldn’t have happened in this way. I said some time ago the Prime Minister should have said to Peter Hain you’ve got to give a convincing explanation of your situation or you can’t stay in the Cabinet, instead we’ve had a long delay where one of the most important departments in Government hasn’t been led properly , and I think that was wrong. The Department of Work and Pensions is one of the most important jobs in government. It is one of the highest spending departments: responsible for pensions, responsible for benefits and welfare reform. It is a huge department and a very big hole will be left by Mr Hain’s departure, which the Prime Minister will have to fill. The Prime Minister should not have allowed this to go on for so long."
Earlier this afternoon Chris Grayling said: “Peter Hain’s resignation was inevitable and the right thing to do given the Electoral Commission’s decision. What is important now is for Gordon Brown to take rapid action to restore effective leadership to a department that has clearly been distracted by the events of the last few weeks.”
4.15pm: Chris Grayling's statement on James Purnell's appointment as Hain's successor: "“I hope he will be able to take a firm grip on a department that is clearly losing its way, with revelations in the last two weeks alone that National Insurance numbers have been issued to illegal immigrants and personal data has been left on the roadside.”
Chris Grayling has sent a list of questions to Peter Hain. Here are the main ones:
When were you first made aware of the fact that your campaign had debts of over £100,000, for which you were personally liable?
Did any of the payments to trade creditors to meet those debts exceed significantly their normal trading terms, and if so, have you sought advice from the Electoral Commission about whether these also constituted declarable loans?
When did you first become aware that donations to your deputy leadership campaign had not been declared? And when did you first inform the Electoral Commission that your original declaration to it was incomplete?
What checks did you personally make during the deputy leadership campaign to ensure that donations were being properly registered?
What involvement, if any, did you have in raising the money to pay off the debts of your campaign?
If you had no involvement in this, who did take responsibility for organising the fund raising effort to clear your debts?
Will you commit to publishing any correspondence, by email, letter or internal memoranda, between members of your campaign team about fund raising?
When were you first informed that sufficient funds had been raised to clear your debts?
Given the fact that you knew that your campaign had substantial debts, and that fund raising was taking place to meet those debts, why were you unaware that additional donations were being sought for your campaign which would be declarable?
Please could you publish a list of the actual dates on which the undeclared donations were received by your campaign?
An ICM survey for Newsnight suggests that twice as many voters see
Gordon Brown as sleazy (57%) as see David Cameron as sleazy (28%). 44%
agree with Mr Cameron's PMQs' attack that Mr Brown is not "cut out for
the job". Unfortunately only 41% think the Conservative leader passes
his own test. 43% think Mr Cameron the most competent leader and 42%
think the same of Mr Brown.
Those LibDems who
think Vince Cable should be their leader might have their enthusiasm
cooled by the revelation that just 8% think their acting leader is cut
out for the job.
8am on 4/12: As our party attempts to present itself as an alternative government - competent and prepared - one of the most important tasks has been given to Francis Maude and Greg Clark - our shadow cabinet office team. They will oversee the party's implementation office - a unit that will ensure policy ideas are ready to be implemented and not just press released. The unit will also help to prepare shadow ministers for the responsibilities of office. At last night's Policy Exchange reception David Cameron was the speaker and he announced that Nick Boles - that think tank's highly-regarded founder and our candidate in Grantham and Stamford - will run the implementation unit. I hope to write a lot more about this important unit soon and, in particular, the division of responsibilities between the MPs like Francis Maude, who has ministerial experience, and Nick, who doesn't.
The Mail on Sunday's Jonathan Oliver, who broke the Abrahams story, has done it again.
Tomorrow's newspaper has this:
"The focus of the sleaze scandal engulfing the Government switched dramatically last night to the Labour Party's second biggest donor - an Iranian-born car dealer who is not even entitled to vote in general elections. Mahmoud Khayami, a French citizen, has given a total of £830,000 in the past eight months, making him Labour's biggest individual backer after Lord Sainsbury... Khayami made his first donation on May 2 this year. But The Mail on Sunday has discovered he only became a "permissible" donor on May 1, when he first appeared on the Electoral Register. Had he made the payment 48 hours earlier both he and the Labour Party would have been committing a criminal offence. Even though his name is on the register, he is permitted to vote only in local and European ballots, not general elections. Commentators said that while he was thus technically qualified to make party donations, the fact he had done so meant Labour was 'sailing close to the wind' on donation rules."
"Behind the scene No 10 aides are furious at the Harman camp’s attempts to pass the blame on to Mr Brown for her involvement in Labour’s donations scandal. Mr Brown had his competence and integrity called into question by David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions over his admission that a controversial property developer used proxies to channel money to Labour. Now, as the cracks begin to show after six days of pummelling over the David Abrahams affair, the Tories can claim that Mr Brown’s administration is not only bungling and sleazy, but divided to boot."
Mr Brown wants to move on from his troubles by proposing reforms to the whole system of political funding. He wants to use this opportunity to increase state funding of political parties. The Labour machine is already trying to embroil the Tories in its mess by launching attacks on how the Conservatives receive money. Lord Ashcroft inevitably and the Midlands Industrial Council are in Labour's mind.
Chris Grayling is having none of it. He's just issued this statement:
“This morning’s speech is a pretty opportunistic attempt by Gordon Brown to erect a smokescreen around events of the past two days. David Cameron wrote to him in October urging major reforms to party funding and a cap on donations, Gordon Brown refused because he didn’t want to give up on the multi-million pound financing from the trade unions. His decision to pick up the issue again today must be more than an attempt to divert attention away from party problems. The other real concern about this morning’s comments is that it looks like he’s trying to find ways of giving himself greater political advantage. He wants to cut campaigning by his opponents in marginal seats whilst continuing to use tax payers’ money to give his MPs a communication allowance to spend in those same marginal seats. It also looks as if he’s set on protecting big trade union donations whilst putting limits on everyone else."
Even if Labour did reform the laws governing party funding, does anyone believe that they are competent or honest enough to abide by them?
Editor's comment: "This is dangerous for Labour. If the Conservatives choose to oppose extra state funding of political parties (as they should), Labour's attempt to extract even more money from the taxpayer will cause new public fury. The Tories should be doing much in the meantime to increase the proportion of funding they receive from individuals. The Canadian Conservatives would be a good example to learn from."
Last night we covered the fact that the Telegraph/ YouGov poll gave the Tories an 11% lead. Within the poll there's lots of interesting details:
23% are satisfied with Gordon Brown and 59% dissatisfied.
The Conservatives have a 1% lead on economic competence - 33% to 32%; Labour had a 49% to 27% advantage at the last election.
11% think Alistair Darling is doing a good job; 53% think he's doing a bad job.
52% agree that the Government is neither competent nor efficient.
60% agree that Labour appears sleazy; only 31% say the same of David Cameron's Conservatives.
The table on the right indicates the extent to which the loss of the HMRC data on 25 million peoples' personal information leads public perceptions of Labour as incompetent.
You can access all of the numbers from within this page on Telegraph.co.uk.
3.15pm: A Populus poll confirms Labour's weakening position. 53% of voters agreed that "the Labour Government now appears to be more sleazy than the previous Conservative
Government". 40% disagreed. 60% agreed that they had less trust in Gordon Brown than when he became Prime Minister in June. 36% disagreed.
60% disagreed with the proposition that despite recent events Mr
Brown was leading a competent government. By 47% to 40% people still thought that Gordon Brown would make a better Prime Minister than David Cameron.
4pm: A great line from Fraser Nelson (my emphasis): "Brown told Peter Tapsell that "this job is an important job and I will continue to do it to the best of my ability". Yes, Prime Minister, that's what we're all worried about."
Editor's verdict: "Vince Cable steals the show today with his Mr Bean line. As the FT's George Parker has just said on Radio Five - Mr Brown thinks himself a serious, weighty figure and hates to be ridiculed. Well done, Mr Cable! Another good performance from Mr Cameron. He provided plenty of good clips for the rest of the day's broadcasts. Also good to hear John Gummer and Michael Ancram joining the attack so successfully."
Not verbatim highlights:
12.26pm: 'What does the PM want for Christmas?', Sir Patrick Cormack asks. A day off, the PM replies. [He can have as many days off as he likes if he goes to see The Queen tomorrow!]
12.24pm: Another good question, this time from John Gummer: The PM said his decision to call off the election had nothing to do with the polls and his inheritance tax cut had nothing to do with what the Conservatives had done. How can we believe him now when he says he knew nothing about the dodgy donations?
12.17pm: Excellent question from Michael Ancram: Why are all his party colleagues so intent on keeping him in the dark?
12.11pm: Vince Cable highlights the underfunding of the armed forces. The Prime Minister replies by saying that Britain has the second best funded armed services in the world. [Fraser Nelson dealt with that claim last week: Des Browne's Defence Funding Fiddle].
12.11pm: Best line of the day from Vince Cable: In a few short weeks the Prime Minister has gone from Stalin to Mr Bean.
12.07pm: This goes to the heart of Prime Minister's integrity, says Cameron. His explanations beggar belief. We've had disaster after disaster since he became Prime Minister. A run on the bank. Half the country's personal details lost in the post. Now this. The Prime Minister is looking less and less cut out for the job. Enthusiastic Tory cheers.
12.04pm: Has the PM invited the police to investigate? [Ben Brogan thinks that a police investigation is inevitable]. If, as he said yesterday, unlawful acts have been committed, he should call in the police. The public will see the Prime Minister wriggling. John Mendelsohn, Labour fund manager, knew about this unlawful behaviour a month ago. Why is he still in place? [Guido has the background on Mendelsohn]. Mr Brown replies by saying that Mr Mendelsohn had been led to believe that the donations had been cleared by the Electoral Commission.
12.02pm: David Cameron invites the Prime Minister to say if he believes he still is delivering competence and trust to British politics. The Prime Minister responds by saying that he has set up enquiries and is determined to ensure that party political funding is all above board.
11.59am: I'm listening to Radio Five Live: Commentator says 'goal gets wider for David Cameron every week'. Indeed!