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Decision Time

Nick Robinson | 09:43 UK time, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

How do ministers get decisions they want past a prime minister who doesn't want to take them?

Easy. Set up an independent policy review without telling the boss and challenge him to back it or sack you.

James PurnellThat secret of the ministerial trade is revealed tonight by James Purnell, the former DWP Secretary, in the first of a new series of Decision Time on BBC Radio 4.

Decision Time examine decisions that could face any government at this time whatever its political colour.

Tonight (Wednesday 13 January) we examine how - faced with the need to slash Britain's soaring deficit - ministers might seek to cut the cost of welfare and what hurdles might be thrown up in Whitehall, Parliament and the media.

I asked James Purnell how you could radical policies past a reluctant prime minister. Here's his reply:

James Purnell: The other thing that you could do is outflank and No 10, by trying to be more radical...you could just unilaterally go out and commission someone to review the system for you, and then the prime minister would be left with the choice of either firing you or pretending that they were into that idea all along.

Nick Robinson: ...are you suggesting that cabinet ministers commission reviews without the full knowledge of the prime minister in advance?

JP: Yes, they do, I did exactly that (laughter).

NR: Which one did you commission?

JP: Well the second time David Freud came back it wasn't necessarily cleared with the whole of the Whitehall machine, shall we say.

NR: It wasn't entirely clear that your views were shared in Downing Street at the time

JP: Not entirely, no

On the same programme Labour backbencher Martin Salter tells the tale of how to organise a backbench rebellion. My producer Giles Edwards has written about that here.

Decision Time is on BBC Radio 4 at 20:00 GMT on 13 January 2010.

Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    A sign that Mr Purnell has accepted his fate - morphing into a media person. Seems to have given up so quickly.

    Do we really need to re-invent "Yes Minister"? I think we get the idea of how government functions - sorry mal-functions.

  • Comment number 2.

    Would not a blog on Mr Campbell's appearence in front of the Chilcott enquiry have been more relevant than writing that sometimes Ministers do not always follow the Prime Ministers orders?.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    Pathetic!

  • Comment number 5.

    In other words what you do it get the evidence that the PM is wrong or more importantly will look foolish if he stays where he is.

    Then it is easy for them to change their mind particularly if you can offer them an olive branch and a way out that makes them look statesmanlike.

  • Comment number 6.

    All of the major newspapers are going with stories about the Chilcott enquiry in the wake of Alistair Campbell's evidence. Most of the articles are highly critical of Campbell, and either imply or openly say that he is lying. Even the left leaning Guardian is running a story that says the war was illegal.

    Why is the BBC's top political commentator ignoring the story completely?

  • Comment number 7.

    It must be a piece of cake these days especially when you have a PM that has not yet shown us his vision for Britain's future let alone manifesto plans!

  • Comment number 8.

    2. At 10:12am on 13 Jan 2010, Rustigjongens wrote:
    Would not a blog on Mr Campbell's appearence in front of the Chilcott enquiry have been more relevant than writing that sometimes Ministers do not always follow the Prime Ministers orders?.

    Took the words right out of my mouth (or should that be keyboard)

  • Comment number 9.

    Rustigjongens @ #2
    Totally agree.
    I suspect that right now GB and his spin team are using this type of appraoch to sound out what the electorate will swallow leading up to the election in May.
    Another topic worth discussing is the apparent non disclosure of MP expense claims if the MP repays the money and apologises to the so called "Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards".This uses a "loophole (that) was introduced in 2005 under the auspices of Michael Martin, the discredited former speaker.

  • Comment number 10.

    @ 6

    "Even the left leaning Guardian is running a story that says the war was illegal"

    You should remove the "even" prefix.

    Opposition to the war was strongest on the Left.

  • Comment number 11.

    Any chance on getting a decision on banker's bonuses past Brown?


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jan/12/disdain-democracy-bankers-bonuses-theft

  • Comment number 12.

    Is this an overt advertisement trailer for a BBC R4 programme by NR.
    yes , yes minister rehashed.

    #2 here here , been calling for that since yesterday.


    just show how the listening glorious leader just does not listens
    and he has all the solutions, BUT we know that NR.

    now back to Mr Campbells comments about how to construct a dossier
    that has statement that would lead a leading paper to make then Iconic.

    A dossier that 460+ labour MP's could hide hehind and vote for War when the facts were far from clear BUT were presented as gosspel

    what does "beyond Doubt" mean in terms of misleading Parliament then please.


    Many lives have been lost over this and the eye taken of the ball in afghanistan, so an explanation is required. As this has many political threads to it and NR you are the political reporter ??

    Ps you can have more than one story running in a day, we can take it honest

  • Comment number 13.

    DECISION TIME

    I put it to the Great British voting public (and fellow posters) that if you are sick to the back teeth with the bank bailouts, banker’s bonuses, Westminster expenses scandal and general establishment corruption...then you just might want to consider a proposed course of action...

    ...which would be to spoil your ballot paper in the forthcoming GE by putting a cross in ALL of the boxes. Remember, this would be OFFICIALLY recorded as a 'spoilt' ballot paper. This would therefore be considered as a de facto 'ABSTENTION'...and all spoilt ballot papers are (of course) counted, recorded and announced.

    ANY OTHER 'VOTE' IS JUST A VOTE FOR THE STATUS QUO. DON'T WASTE IT!

    If you think this is a good proposal then please send an e-mail/Tweet/Facebook message to 10 of your friends asking that they do the same.

    Send out a message to the City and Westminster that The People are now ready for real change.

    Put a X in every box!

  • Comment number 14.

    7. excellentcatblogger wrote:

    "...It must be a piece of cake these days especially when you have a PM that has not yet shown us his vision for Britain's future..."

    The first rule of politics is that negative campaigning works.

    Brown hasn't deviated from this.

  • Comment number 15.

    Nick...with Campbells appearance in front of Chilcott,and the implications of his blatant lies..is this all you can think of?..

    ..Promoting your own TV career..shameful

  • Comment number 16.

    No inside information on Brown's reaction to Campbell? Outside the loop are we now Nick?

  • Comment number 17.

    In reply to comments @ #2 by Rustigjongens:

    "Would not a blog on Mr Campbell's appearence in front of the Chilcott enquiry have been more relevant than writing that sometimes Ministers do not always follow the Prime Ministers orders?."

    Well no actually, whilst not diminishing the importance of the Iraq war enquiry there is plenty of time for that sort of blog (I would far prefer a blog about how Campbell's and Blair's evidence compares or doesn't than blogs on individual accounts as it could so easily become an opinion piece.

    Nick's new series sounds very promising, but will it be able to run it's course without having to be pulled from the schedules!...

  • Comment number 18.

    #10 and that was shown by how many labour MP's please ?

  • Comment number 19.

    Alistair Campbell has just appeared in front of the Chilcott Inquiry and you go on about this non entity. Good grief.

  • Comment number 20.

    PMQs is starting now.

    I'll take bets on how many questions the oaf answers, and how many time he brings up inheritence tax and the tories marriage plans.

  • Comment number 21.

    #13 DebtJuggler
    Why don't you just collect your ballot paper, put it in your pocket and walk out. The paper can then be used for something useful: Line a cat's litter tray with it or use it for a shopping list or just roll up into a ball and flick it at your local MP.

  • Comment number 22.

    Dear Nick

    Thanks for providing further evidence that Cabinet government is still in the deep freeze.

    Peter Kenyon
    http://petergkenyon.typepad.com/peterkenyon

  • Comment number 23.

    I think the only decision we have to worry about is the one each one of us will make on election day.

    After all, if the wrong party gets in, you are not really in a position to complain if you did not vote for the part of your choice.

    It seems that the choice is between one party known to be responsible for the mess we are in and two other parties which are unknown quantities and which, under their current leaderships, have little or no experience of national government.



  • Comment number 24.

    Interesting advertorial.

    Not so surprising that there are many different ways to achieve a desired outcome even if the boss doesn't agree with you.
    It can hardly be a shocking revelation that No10 or the cabinet don't always agree and that every single decision is not personally signed off with the PM beforehand (no matter how much they would like it to be).

    Government and the civil serivce is a system and clever people will always find their way round a system to greater effect than those who stand shouting at it.
    That so few Labour ministers seem to be able to work this out and find a way round the roadblocks of Brown or Blair says more about the depth of talent in them than anything else.
    There is always a way to get round a system if you think about it, just look at the economy.

    p.s Chilcott would be a dull blog topic, Nick has no more insight that everything else published in the papers (i.e. a rather predictably dull well rehearsed set of replies to predictable questions) and frankly just reading a repeated litany of comments on the Iraq war which have been done to death would be boring. It may not permit Campbell, Blair, Labour bashing/praising to the same extent but surely the clever regulars can think a way to use the blog topic to abuse/praise their preffered targets in a novel and refreshing way.

  • Comment number 25.

    Although I am no fan of gordon brown, and wholeheartedly support a system where there is accountability and people can say whats on their constituents' mind, this is about the opinion of a minister against the opinion of the prime minister. This is about political gain, not whats right.

    If everyone can do what they like its like trying to be captain of a viking ship where everyone is padling in the direction they thinks best.
    The ship (country) just goes around and around while the enemy shoots at you.


    If you were given a job with a team, held accountable for the team success, but then told your team can do what they like and dont have to listen to you, would you feel that was workable?

  • Comment number 26.

    18. IR35_SURVIVOR:

    #10 and that was shown by how many labour MP's please ?


    Poster said "left", not Labour government.

  • Comment number 27.

    #23 newshounduk
    "After all, if the wrong party gets in, you are not really in a position to complain if you did not vote for the part of your choice."

    But under the UK's peerless plurality system - supposedly the envy of the world but in fact the least democratic in the EU - parties are not supposed to exist.

    You're supposed to vote for the "Knight" of your shire who will best represent your views in the House of Cards.

  • Comment number 28.

    Sometimes I wonder if the BBC employed you for journalistic talent

    Purnell is yesterday's knife wielder, who according to the paper's lives a very untidy and less clean life style, so I wonder what insights he can provide for the rest of the population

    unless of course it is to back up Mr Watt who says Brown may be the PM, but isn't in charge

  • Comment number 29.

    Well GB refused to volunter himself to go in front of the enquiry before there is an election.

    NO labour MP's where prepared to say that they would have him on there front page whilst all the tories said they would have him on theres.

    Still did not answer a question, unless it was plant by a labour backbencher, the speaker should really do something about that .

  • Comment number 30.

    #13 thats assuming that we actually get an election called.

    or will it happen by default. The only PM never to be elected (no one standing against does not count thats stalins USSR) and never actually has the ed balls to call it himself

  • Comment number 31.

    Must have been a quiet day down the lobby pub.

    Despite there being plenty of things, like the possibility of the forces facing personnel cuts of upto 20% while theres still a war going on, bonuses being paid by state run banks, MP's expenses reform being watered down - and all we get is an advert?

    Sheesh. This Political Editing lark is EASY!

  • Comment number 32.

    Is it in the remit of the Speaker to ensure that the Prime Minister actually answers the set questions during PMQ? Or am i just being naive?

  • Comment number 33.

    21. At 12:10pm on 13 Jan 2010, Poprishchin wrote:
    #13 DebtJuggler
    Why don't you just collect your ballot paper, put it in your pocket and walk out. The paper can then be used for something useful: Line a cat's litter tray with it or use it for a shopping list or just roll up into a ball and flick it at your local MP.

    -------------

    Well, you only missed out Cameron's photos....

    Even NR's little piece said that Brown just refuses to the answer the question.

    Mockery of democracy much?

  • Comment number 34.

    Has anyone else noticed Michael (Denzil Xavier) Portillo, son of a good Spanish communist - a heritage he betrayed - on BBC2 doing his railway journeys. I note that Andreas (change to Andrew) Adonis did his preparation trip around the UK by train last year for his soon to be commissioned "UK Lost Railways" series. What did James Purnell do as a minister to make a TV series about? (I don't think Pensions and Welfare Reform will make a good TV series!) So it is the wilderness for you James....

  • Comment number 35.

    So much for Cabinet government then.

    Is there any principle, standard or moral value which this ghastly, corrupt and incompetent government has not driven a coach and horses through?

    No doubt Purnell thinks he has been clever and what is New Labour all about other than being clever. I mean it is a meritocracy isn't it: the clever people get to the top, don't they? You mean you haven't noticed?

    All that this does is expose the common spivery that has beset this government from day one in May 1997. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more!

    Vile people! To say they are no more than crooks would be to insult the criminal classes.

  • Comment number 36.

    So what is the story? I thought someone was given a Department/Ministry to run. they new what the party wanted so off they jolly well went and did it. Much the same as managers are in industry, you have a budget and a job to do. Do it. But not now in government there is now aneed for everything to go through the PM.

    So Cabinet Government is dead long live El presidente!!!

    When were the public consulted on the change of responsibilities?

  • Comment number 37.

    #33
    Are you drunk?

  • Comment number 38.

    I did not think it possible but Speaker Bercow is even more lax at allowing the PM to rubbish the oppositon parties at PMQs rather than answer the questions than Speaker Martin was!

    Could it be that he needs Labour to win the next election in order to keep his job?

    Today Nick said that he expects the IRAQ enquiry story to run and run so he is probably keeping his powder dry.

    And Cameron needs to learn from Clegg the art of asking good questions which do not give GB Mantra room!

  • Comment number 39.

    Just a quick thought in addition to my 36 above. Are the current crop of Ministers incapable of thinking through a project to the end without asking teacher?

  • Comment number 40.

    How much longer does this country have to suffer this dreadful government and its dreadful leader with his hammed up qeustions at PMQs?

    When is this rudderless ship going to be given some direction?

    Was Alistair Campbell so exhausted after his attempts yesterday not to put his foot in it that this 'witty repartee' about David Cameron's election poster was the best he could come up with.

    Even the prime minsiter looks like he's losing the will to live; the more he tells himself (because no one else is listening) that he is the master of his own destiny, the nore he appears not to believe in it anymore. And yet he is, wiothout question, determined to stay there and go down in flames. 'nobody understands me, nobody understands me'

    Dogs would by now have been put out of their misery for less.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 41.

    #32. At 12:59pm on 13 Jan 2010, winifred122 wrote:

    "Is it in the remit of the Speaker to ensure that the Prime Minister actually answers the set questions during PMQ? Or am i just being naive?"

    As long as s/he gives an answer then s/he is answering the question, one might not like the answer given but that is another point entirely!...

  • Comment number 42.

    20. sweetAnybody

    "...inheritence tax and the tories marriage plans..."

    These were indeed answers Brown gave. Nick Robinson should offer you a job on the staff.

    I don't know how Prime Ministers Questions don't contravene the Trades Descriptions Act.

  • Comment number 43.

    38 gac wrote:
    I did not think it possible but Speaker Bercow is even more lax at allowing the PM to rubbish the oppositon parties at PMQs rather than answer the questions than Speaker Martin was!


    This point about Brown not answering the question is often raised. I think you need to ask yourself whether the questions are really questions or whether they are political attacks dressed up as questions. If the latter, then they don't deserve answers. When the former occasionally crop up, they usually get them.

  • Comment number 44.

    A blog on why Gordon Brown is not appearing at the Chilcot Enquiry before the election would be more useful.
    Does anyone out there know why?

  • Comment number 45.

    To some this bottomless topic may seem rather a yawn, if earnest. But wait a minute Nick has received much criticism lately for his controversial speculations - we ca'nt have it both ways.

    Those of us who keep muttering at the Nick screen presence (a le Mike Winner ad.) '' calm down dear '' its only a game ! We dream of political presentation free from Nicks curved ball speculations, free fom his very personal slants and interpretations and rabid Thatcherlike enthusiasm.

    So here is Nick, closely minded, by his producer apparently giving us some 'British Constitution at work' type fodder. Eat it up its organic and at least it puts Nick in the sinbin ! No that's harsh better to say it is just a 'timeout', a pause for editorial reflection.

    Of course the hook in the lure is the potential joy of confessions of the quitters. So perhaps what is beeing offered is'nt quite what it seems. Take note, again, Mr. Cameron, the gatekeepers deliver.

  • Comment number 46.

    42#

    Doesnt exist any more mate. Been repealed and replaced by a diktat from Brussels.

    http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/consumers/buying-selling/ucp/index.html

  • Comment number 47.

    Surely the Prime Minister is required to answer questions asked as opposed to ranting on at a tangent?

    He appears to behave like the oppositon , perhaps
    Mr Bercow should remind him that he and his cabinet are responsible and NOT the Torys, Limp Dems or any other party?!

    They really are G%d awful.

  • Comment number 48.

    Accidentally I tuned into parliament just before PMQs and the chamber was going through the motions of Scottish Questions. My first thought was "que"? What is Holyrood for? This was reinforced with the calibre of questions asked as presumably devolved matters cannot be discussed at Westminster e.g. should Celtic and Rangers play in the English premier League? Dearie me, what dross.

    And all the while the chamber filled up for PMQs, the background chatter frequently overwhelmed those trying to speak. The Speaker intervened to no avail, a bit like a football referee who refuses to book players for violent conduct, so the hubbub increased. The speaker does have powers to exclude members who are rowdy in the chamber but this useless weak Speaker clearly will not enforce them.

    Whether the Speaker can force a minister to answer a question, I know not but his inaction on the behaviour of MPs whilst in the chamber is an absolute disgrace. Bercow is doing more than his bit to undermine parliamentary democracy.

  • Comment number 49.

    37. At 1:25pm on 13 Jan 2010, Poprishchin wrote:
    #33
    Are you drunk?

    ----------

    Hmm, I do seem to have picked up the wrong quote don't I. This was the one I was shooting for:

    -------------------------

    At 12:08pm on 13 Jan 2010, sweetAnybody wrote:
    PMQs is starting now.

    "I'll take bets on how many questions the oaf answers, and how many time he brings up inheritence tax and the tories marriage plans.

    ----------------

    And my response:

    Well, you only missed out Cameron's photos....

    Even NR's little piece said that Brown just refuses to the answer the question.

    Mockery of democracy much?

  • Comment number 50.

    41. At 1:40pm on 13 Jan 2010, Boilerplated wrote:

    #32. At 12:59pm on 13 Jan 2010, winifred122 wrote:

    "Is it in the remit of the Speaker to ensure that the Prime Minister actually answers the set questions during PMQ? Or am i just being naive?"

    As long as s/he gives an answer then s/he is answering the question, one might not like the answer given but that is another point entirely!...

    ======================================================================

    So in your eyes as long as Gordon opens his mouth and sounds come out, then he has met the remit of Prime Ministers Questions?

    The purpose of PMQs is to allow MPs to ask the Prime Minster questions about issues that concern them. Gordon has turned it into a session where he just ducks, weaves, and attacks the opposition with no reference to the questions at all.

    He is an absolute disgrace and has absolutely no respect for the democratic parliamentary system this country is based on.

  • Comment number 51.

    42. At 1:44pm on 13 Jan 2010, rg wrote:

    20. sweetAnybody

    "...inheritence tax and the tories marriage plans..."

    These were indeed answers Brown gave. Nick Robinson should offer you a job on the staff.

    I don't know how Prime Ministers Questions don't contravene the Trades Descriptions Act.

    ======================================================================

    It would if they called it Prime Ministers Answers.

  • Comment number 52.

    ''How do ministers get decisions they want past a prime minister who doesn't want to take them? '' What a great tongue in cheeky !

    May I suggest an addendum topic :

    ''How do shadow ministers get decisions they want past a shadow leader
    who takes the wrong ones and constantly changes direction ?''

    Perhaps the producer will consider including interviews with Haig
    and Fox about their strongarming DC away from his intent to nominate an Afghanistan withdrawal date. Clarke on his Osborne corrections.... you silly boy !

  • Comment number 53.

    43. pdavies65

    "...political attacks dressed up as questions..."

    Brown is allowed to claim "no more boom and bust" in the HoC.

    Cameron as Leader of the Opposition can't expect to quiz him on this and get an answer other than a personal attack?

    I think the fairest thing would be to knock PMQs on the head and use the time to more productive effect. What we have now is yawn inducing tedium.

  • Comment number 54.

    Andrew seemd miffed, in The Daily Politics show, that the Tories turned down an invitation for the shadow Treasury spokesperson to appear. Ah well would you have had the bottle when the topic was Bankers Bonuses ? Still it shows LOMF (lack of moral fibre) when your party is aspirant - or was it just arrogant indifference ?

    I had it 30:30 in the bearpit. DC lacked sparkle, except around the gills which seemed very pink, perhaps touched-up, and shining in contrast to his front bench white faced 'supporters' (?) Gordo was a bit scarey, but thats just the shaggy highland cattle image beeing projected. Dont be fooled by the long coat and his curved horns, he really can be quite docile.....................to his family !

    The Ref was quieter than usual, but he has a lot to mull over.

  • Comment number 55.

    43. At 1:49pm on 13 Jan 2010, pdavies65 wrote:

    38 gac wrote:
    I did not think it possible but Speaker Bercow is even more lax at allowing the PM to rubbish the oppositon parties at PMQs rather than answer the questions than Speaker Martin was!

    This point about Brown not answering the question is often raised. I think you need to ask yourself whether the questions are really questions or whether they are political attacks dressed up as questions. If the latter, then they don't deserve answers. When the former occasionally crop up, they usually get them.

    =====================================================================

    If the questions have become more like attacks then there is no one to blame but GB. Was this such an issue with TB was around?

    If I was DC I would, one week, just ask Gordon how his weekend was, whether his family were well etc, use all six questions in this manner then just sit down.

    It would show that the whole process was a complete farce, and it would give Gordon some practice at actually answering.

  • Comment number 56.

    #44 telecasterdave

    Why no blog? Or why is Brown not appearing at Chilcot?

    Ask Nick about the first question.

    I can make a stab at the second.

    Brown is an arrogant and dishonest man. Simple as that. I should imagine that his thoughts on his future are to portray himself as a foil to Tony Blair's legacy, in the hope that this will wash with the electorate. As long as he can position himself as the "Good Guy" and Blair as the "Bad Guy" he probably thinks that this will cement his position. Of course, if this strategy came under scrutiny and Brown was closely questioned, the carefully crafted front would crumble and Brown would be revealed as a culpable player in the entire mess.

    He's a Scottish Labour politician; not to be trusted. He only has his ego inflated career at heart.

  • Comment number 57.

    50. At 2:11pm on 13 Jan 2010, sweetAnybody wrote:

    "So in your eyes as long as Gordon opens his mouth and sounds come out, then he has met the remit of Prime Ministers Questions?

    The purpose of PMQs is to allow MPs to ask the Prime Minster questions about issues that concern them. Gordon has turned it into a session where he just ducks, weaves, and attacks the opposition with no reference to the questions at all."


    Indeed it is, and has been for years and it's been abused for years to, I well remember Thatcher, Major, Blair and now Brown selectively or point blank not answering questions. That said, and as someone else pointed out, MP's and party leaders need to ask questions in such a away that filibustering by the resident PM is not possible or is so obvious when done it's simply not worth doing.

    But yes the Speaker could intervene but then all the unwilling PM has to do then is stand up and say "Sorry but I don't have that specific information to hand, I will have to write to the member", still no answer given in public...

  • Comment number 58.

    #7 Cat

    He hasn't even shown us his vision for Britain's past!

  • Comment number 59.

    #10 Saga

    With apologies to your newly reconstructed moderate self! ...

    Opposition to ANYTHING is strongest on the left!

  • Comment number 60.

    The question the lady asked about whether those members who have become mentally deranged could be allowed to continue in office . The answer was a definite yes, the proof was leaning over the dispatch box ranting about achievements that didn't exist and failing to answer any other questions.

  • Comment number 61.

    53 - RG - Sadly, I have to agree with you that PMQ is becoming tedious. I think it's demise portrays the lack of integity, moral fibre, honesty and bottle that politicians now display. I used to care about these things, but Blair, Brown, Cameron, Cleg, Mandleson, Mr and Mrs Balls, "Speedy" Harman, The Fabulous Milliband Brothers, "Buff" Hoon and Hewitt are all just out for what they can get out of us. It doesn't matter about the elction - the result will be the same whoever gets in.

  • Comment number 62.

    #13 Debt:

    In 1997 in the pub, some friends and I were debating this issue, and were thinking along the same lines.

    We never got it off the ground because we were too late - and the internet was not as powerful as it is now.

    IMHO the disillusioned (comme moi) should be pushing for people to turn out and (if not committed to a particular candidate/party) spoil their ballot paper and thereby be recorded as (1) having voted and shown an interest and (2) having said 'sod it' to the lot of you.

    The sooner we have a system where voting is compulsory (under penalty of a sensible fine) and in which all any ballot under 50% of recorded votes means non-election, the better

  • Comment number 63.

    #32 Winifre

    Yes you are being (slightly) naive. The 'set questions' are in essence all 'Will the PM list his engagements for the day", to which the answer is 'I refer the Hon Member to the answer that I gave earlier.

    All very standard. It is the supplementaries which lead to the interesting bits! (Occasionally).

  • Comment number 64.

    #39 Exiled

    Yes

  • Comment number 65.

    DECISION TIME

    Well I'm Nick Robinson your political reporter on the spot. Well that is my decision time where to continue this path or become a TV presenter/personality in the culture of Fame and dashing teeth.

    Actually the chair of the chillcott Ms Chairistperosn was having none of what Mr Campbell was selling. (it reminded me of a scene from tinker tailor spy with Sir Alec in)

    Well that it form me NR I'm of to earn loads of money taking over from JR

  • Comment number 66.

    #42 rg

    PMQ's don't. PM's answers do!

  • Comment number 67.

    "pdavies65 wrote:
    38 gac wrote:
    I did not think it possible but Speaker Bercow is even more lax at allowing the PM to rubbish the oppositon parties at PMQs rather than answer the questions than Speaker Martin was!

    This point about Brown not answering the question is often raised. I think you need to ask yourself whether the questions are really questions or whether they are political attacks dressed up as questions. If the latter, then they don't deserve answers. When the former occasionally crop up, they usually get them."

    And Brown's responses to the questions aren't political attacks? Brown's answers to questions on PMQs depend on who asks them, in response to soft questions from the Labour benches Brown typically thanks them and answers the question by pointing out how well Labour have done and then attacking the Tories. However, in response to actual questions rather then meaningless planted questions Brown either tries to answer by repeating statistics that may or may not have anything to do with the question or gets angry and attacks the questioner.

    And to be fair the questions you might consider to be political attacks are only political attacks because they are about failures of the government. We don't have the perfect system but I would imagine it was the purpose of the opposition to ask questions about the failure of government.

  • Comment number 68.

    "sweetAnybody wrote:

    If I was DC I would, one week, just ask Gordon how his weekend was, whether his family were well etc, use all six questions in this manner then just sit down."

    I can only imagine his response, it would probably be along the lines of his family having 75% more time at the park under a Labour government and the server taking 25% longer to fufil their order at pizza hut suggesting increased confidence in the pizza sector.

  • Comment number 69.

    Dear, dear Mr Robinson, I am overcome with the vagueness of this latest attempt to justify your job.

    Just what is James Purnell talking about (he appears to shift position about one hundred and eighty degrees between the first and third comment he makes) and just what is it that you do not include in your diet that adds sharpness to human beings?

  • Comment number 70.

    #43 pdavies 65 wrote:
    "This point about Brown not answering the question is often raised. I think you need to ask yourself whether the questions are really questions or whether they are political attacks dressed up as questions. If the latter, then they don't deserve answers. When the former occasionally crop up, they usually get them."

    Any evidence for the last sentence?

    Are you saying that opposition politicians are not allowed political attacks? I'm represented by a Conservative MP and I expect him to call this corrupt and inept Government to account.

    Finally, the opening question in PMQs, from a Conservative MP, was about the UK's deficit (worst in the developed world). Brown replied by quoting statistics about the debt. How ignorant is that? Since Brown is not a fool I should have said, how evasive is that?

    PMs (Thatcher, Blair, Brown) have extensive executive power under our constitution. The Speaker should require all or any of them to answer any legitimate question.

  • Comment number 71.

    At PMQs Brown accused Cameron of being red-faced.

    But then, hey, Brown is a serious politican that eschews personal attacks.

  • Comment number 72.

    Unfortunately Brown does not even understand the concept of PMQs, he seems to think this is his opportunity to ask the opposition questions. The number of times Brown has asked Cameron questions instead of answering the question asked, leads me to wonder if he realises it is actually himself that is in Government.

    Bercow is a terrible Speaker and do not see much difference between him and Martin to be honest.

  • Comment number 73.

    Why is Gordon Brown still loose or 'at large'.

    Surely, under Labour's anti-terror laws, he is guilty of inciting hatred.

    I know how he makes me feel about him, so clearly it must qualify?

    Go on, lock him up and ban his group!

  • Comment number 74.

    Seriously though. PMQ's. How old are they?

    GB: 'Yeah, well you've got a red face and you airbrush!'

    DC: 'Oh yeah, well, what about you spending everyones money?'

    GB: 'Didn't!'

    DC: 'Did!'

    GB: 'Well at least I didn't go to Eton!'

    DC: 'My Dad's car is bigger than yours!'

    GB: 'Posh Boy!'

    DC: 'See you at the poles! loser!'

    Oh, no hang on... that was the actual recorded transcript for PMQs wasn't it?

  • Comment number 75.

    I've got an idea. Why doesn't a serious a political journalist look at the answers given during PMQs and compare them to the questions? They could also look at the responses to see if they are factually correct or just vacuous. This would be a simple, almost weekly blog entry with very little effort at all. Trouble is I cannot think of anyone for the job.

  • Comment number 76.

    44

    Very likely reason being to preserve the impartial and independent nature of the enquiry from any possible politically motivated impuning of the inquiry itself.

    Think on what could happen if Brown and Co were called.
    The questioning is perceived to be poor and fails to land a blow on Brown - Labour haters suggest the enquiry is a whitewash and being interfered with for political/electoral purposes. The inquiry is damaged irrespective of whether it damages Brown etc.

    Those calling on Brown to go before it before the election are mostly just doing it so in the hope of some political advantage from it and not out of 'principle'. It is perceived as such and as such the enquiry cannot be seen to get involved.

    Preserving the integrity of the inquiry is the aim.

    When Brown is a back bencher he may be more prepared to unearth the skeletons, if there are any, something he certainly will not do when he has something to lose (at least in his mind anyway).

    The inquiry is probably better for waiting for him and the soon to be ex-ministers - before it gets embroilled in party politics which does it no good whatsoever.

  • Comment number 77.

    Nick
    Did you learn anything from watching Romeo and Juliet last night that might be relevant to today's politics? I was thinking of the Blairites and Browno's knifing each other in the back?

  • Comment number 78.

    I'm picking up a sudden aversion to "personal attacks" now that Brown is laying some hurtful and amusing jibes on Cameron. A bit childish, of course, but always been part of the Scene - and no question that Gordon's material (and delivery thereof) has improved no end. He shouldn't overdo this sort of thing, though. Not that many votes in it.

  • Comment number 79.

    PMQs

    PMs have been dodging questions and turning the tables on Opposition leaders for ages... Blair was particularly good at the Dispatch Box. It's just that Brown is rubbish at it so it becomes more obvious. Like his 'poster' reference today. A good joke but sadly diluted by repetition. He's no natural. He will be a nervous wreck during the TV debates, making sure he gets all his licks in.
    Mind you, he may not be a natural performer but at least he has true grit. :)))

  • Comment number 80.

    43 pcdavies

    "This point about Brown not answering the question is often raised. I think you need to ask yourself whether the questions are really questions or whether they are political attacks dressed up as questions. If the latter, then they don't deserve answers."

    ===================================================

    I think Camerons questions today were reasonable. As Gordon Brown has reinvented himself again as the latest New Listening Gordon in order to hang onto his job, then I think it is of interest to everyone to know what he is going to do differently. Bearing in mind that he has had more self re-inventions than Doctor Who, all of which have had no effect at all, perhaps he could tell us how it is going to be different this time.

    As if questions "deserve" an answer, I can't think of any basis on how this can be done. PMQs should not give the PM the opportunity to decide what the questions are asked, or which questions "deserve" to be answered. Being PM is a privilege and an honour, and I believe that the position deserves to be treated with more respect by Gordon Brown, who's infantile displays such as todays performance erode politics and democracy even further. My question is does Gordon Brown actually "deserve" to be in the postion of PM at all ?

    Last week on the day of the attempted coup, John Mann MP was interviewed on TV saying that Gordon Brown had had a good PMQs as David Cameron could answer any of the points put to him by Gordon Brown. PMQs should not be about David Cameron answering points !!!! If even our MPs don't understand the concept of PMQs then there is no hope it is going to improve.

    Not that Cameron will be too worried, I watched Browns performance live on PMQs today and his behaviour was shocking, even by his standard. But even sagamix recognises in post 78 that there are not many votes in it.

  • Comment number 81.

    56 & 76

    The trouble with Brown is that he doesn't answer questions, doesn't meet real people and hides away in No.10 unless on some foreign jaunt.
    I really believe he lives in fear of the Chilcot enquiry, where he has to answer direct questions. He can hardly respond to the Chilcot panel individuals by telling them they have a red face. He has to do what he finds most difficult and that is to tell the truth.
    The Chilcot enquiry will show him up to what he really is.

  • Comment number 82.

    80

    "Gordon Brown has had more self re-inventions than Doctor Who"
    ==========
    No wonder David Tennant is such a fan of his !

  • Comment number 83.

    #81

    Not attending the Chilcot enquiry does the same.

    However, for the sake of democracy the media and especially the BBC should challenge him on this.
    He got to the top of the pole by undemocratic means.
    We cannot wait until an election for Mr Brown to be made accountable.
    He must go to Chilcot. What does he have to fear if he was honest during the period leading up to the Iraq war?

  • Comment number 84.

    83

    Let's hope the media do ask the question and not bow down to Labour.

  • Comment number 85.

    I'm Nick Robinson. Welcome to Newslog, my blog about what's going on in and around politics.

    Really

  • Comment number 86.

    Which is better? Lack the courage to make any decision? Make a decision and become vague when asked what it means? Nobody cares what decision you make? Sums up our three 'major' party leaders.

    If I vote at all, how can I decide? I thought democracy meant voting for whom I wanted. In the coming election I will be vote for whom I least don't want. (Proving that double negatives do mean something)

  • Comment number 87.

    Decision Time. What a great way to explore the major issues facing government without all the party political sabre rattling. Well done Nick.

  • Comment number 88.

    Oh dear, oh dear, that is very handy Andy!

    So Andy Burnham let slip the election will be in May in a cancer research event in the commons.... the big day can't come soon enough.

    Where's all the talk Browny been hot airing about transparency, yeah, yeah I get it wait until after the election to be interviewed by Chilcot. Lets not forget the cheques he didn't sign when Geoff Hoon was defense secretary.


    Personally I do agree with Brown there isn't anyone better to lead the party, well there just ain't no sages is there just I wanna be's but one big problem there.... no one wants to inherit the mess he's made so they are running scared is the way I see it.

    Harman, Miliband or Johnson you really are kidding aren't you where are there brain cells?

  • Comment number 89.

    What's with those sideburns? Who does the man think he is? Englebert Humperdink?

  • Comment number 90.

    Nick

    Nothing on Campbell demanding black is white.

    Why oh why can't you bring yourself to show this man for what he is.

    He emaculated the BBC for saying that he sexed up that dossier.

    WHICH HE DID.

    That is fact. Well documented fact.

    Does he still have such a boggy man effect on the BBC editorial team?

  • Comment number 91.

    Nick

    I will never dispute your right to choose subjects for you blog. However having spent an enforced break from contributing do feel that this is an uninspiring subject to get back into the swing of things.

    I suppose that your article does demonstrate a problem inherent within this Government where a senior minister has to adopt under hand tactics to fulfil his/her responsibilities

  • Comment number 92.

    James Purnell is a smart bloke, but gives himself away: 'The other thing that you could do is outflank No 10, by trying to be more radical...'

    "Be sincere even if you don't mean it" and all that.

    The cynicism pendulum has swung much too far towards the tacticians and technocrats. Even those like Purnell (who got off the Titanic just in time) still don't grasp the sea change that's coming. Electors are sick of games. This is serious stuff now, and coming events are going to make it deadly serious.
    More principles and fewer principals - that's what we need.
    http://nbyslog.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 93.

    This is about politics - despite its start.
    Kanye West. I checked out his music. "Heartless" it was called. The track. Nah. Now Teddy Prendergast who has just died. “If you don’t know me by now” whilst a Blue Note, was it Melvin? That seemed apt. Knowing me by now, I mean.
    But back to Kanye. Kanye West-minster? Kanye – O’Reilly I thought? The Sovereignty of Parliament Bill – where was the repeat of Prime Minister's Question Time? 19.30pm on the Parliament Channel last night. Suddenly it was – what was it Baroness Betty Boothroyd called it – a doughnut of Tory MoPs speaking to what seemed an almost empty House Of Commons Chamber. The BBC will not report this said Bill Cash (Stone –Conservative!) and Peter Bone (Wellingborugh was it? – Conservative) hurrumped in agreement. The rest of the doughnut I could care less who they were but Nicholas I found myself riveted by Mr Cash seemingly droning on about something or other and how he had the full support of those missing Tory colleagues.
    My goodness I thought. Surely there is paint drying somewhere and went off for a while. I came back to hearing someone "of Gaunt" being cited by the Labour fairly empty front bench – "of Gaunt) a contemporary of Messrs Cash and Stone perhaps? Out in front of the Parliament building calling for his coach perhaps?
    I got my PMQT at about 20.00pm but I was really still with the Bone Collector, Cash (Point Break) and Jurassic Park seen earlier. This, I thought David Cameron – is why you will never get my vote. And the placement of the Tories in the European Parliament too.
    Sovereignty of Parliament over the EU? I myself would not give those particular gentlemen sovereignty of their own Freedom Passes. No offence but this period when Britain Ruled the Waves. The King at the time was perhaps – Canute? Kanye West-Minster? Kanye –O’Reilly? I do not think so. But that is just me. Hey look. It may have got mentioned on the BBC.

  • Comment number 94.

    #92 reminds me of a churchil quote something like I dont mind if you dont like me its my polices that important or words to that effect.

    Out must go the celebretry style and personality politices and have some more as you can principles and convicion.

    trouble that what you get when you enforce quota for different types to be represented , you are getting the person to fit the qouta not anything of value.

    With quato's, targets and PC its a cancer that is distroying the country.

  • Comment number 95.

    9. Me-thinks / 2. Rustigjongens

    "Another topic worth discussing is the apparent non disclosure of MP expense claims if the MP repays the money and apologises to the so called "Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards".This uses a "loophole (that) was introduced in 2005 under the auspices of Michael Martin, the discredited former speaker."

    Quite.

    "MPs who have admitted breaking expenses rules have been offered secret Parliamentary deals to repay the money without being identified, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.

    " Dozens of MPs are understood to have paid back money without their names or abuses being disclosed to the public following the fast-tracked inquiries into their conduct. The disclosure about the secret justice system will add to growing concerns over the safeguards in place to punish MPs found to have misused public funds.

    "Janet Anderson, a Labour MP, was allowed to secretly repay almost £6,000 last year for over-claiming "petty cash" on her taxpayer-funded expenses."

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/6975806/Immunity-for-MPs-who-repay-expenses.html

    This summed it up for me:

    http://www.artypolitics.com/2010/01/its-mpandemic.html

  • Comment number 96.

    Your Parnell interview just reinforces what we already know- the Cabinet is a weak,politically cowardly group of chancers. Other than Clare Short and Robin Cook there are none that show either talent or leadership. Perhaps Blair and /or Brown made this happen as a way to be in control. Brown certainly appears to be a robotic control freak. He does not answer PMQ questions because he does not know the answer in the first instance and also because he knows that many of us watch from time to time so he tries to show us,Hollywood style, that he is the "man". All he shows really is that he is out of control and is as big a fool as we all think he is. Just watch the faces on the front benchers when he speaks. If that is not lack of cohesion, loyalty and interest I dont know what is; PMQs are a complete waste of time. Trouble is MPs and journos who live in the Westminster bubble of politics think it is clever and "is" politics. It really shows up what an immature puerile and vacant lot Mps really are.And the squeaker? I for one hope he loses his seat to Nick Farage. That is the best way to deal with this odious little man.

  • Comment number 97.

    The question i want answered is

    How you could start remove a reluctant, stick in the snow, prime minister?

  • Comment number 98.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 99.

    According to the Left's favourite blogger, NR is chairing a discussion group on industry developments at Aunty, which includes an address by Damian McBride. I suppose if Maguire of the Mirror is a regular studio guest then it's not surprising his mate is still welcome.

    This allegedly from the Beeb press office:
    "It’s important for people to have the space to take stock, keep up with new developments and ensure we are providing the best possible service for our audience. The event allows staff across the whole of the division to come together to debate and discuss industry and editorial developments – including hearing from outside perspectives."

    "...have space to take stock". Lordy me.
    Nick, can you let us know who else addressed the meeting and what was said? You are a public broadcast service.

  • Comment number 100.

    81

    It is not just Brown but all politicians and their advisers who rarely get to meet real people.

    Many start out with real life experience and seek to use politics as a way to improve things as they see it. Trouble is after a few years in a bubble (unless they really make a point of avoiding it which few can and do) at Westminster or the party offices they lose sight of it and their experience of it comes from the summaries of the newspaper headlines and policy documents of their advisers.

    There are innumerable examples of 'real' people commenting on when the PM or this politician or that came to visit the walls mysteriously acquired a coat of paint by magic or some long outstanding repairs somehow got fixed, a few extra staff appeared on shift, the known critics had a training day or were not on shift etc. So when these people go out to try to see the real world - real people have changed it so they still don't actually get to see it.
    Same happens in companies, it's not just politics - our CEO came to visit once, walls got painted, plants appeared, cloths on the canteen table (both afterwards disappeared strangely) etc.

    Trouble is with many politicians these days is that they start out in a bubble as advisers and special advisors without any real experience of 'real' life outside figures in a research document. They do not live with us or like us - how can they hope to understand the reality of life.

    When politicians have real experiences it shows, our system needs to permit and reinforce this, perhaps with term limitations to prevent them getting too esconced in the bubble.

 

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