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A straight bat

Betsan Powys | 10:37 UK time, Thursday, 22 April 2010

brownblog2.JPG"Respect the players. Respect the officials. Respect the playing area. Respect the ground rules."

As the signs around Glamorgan's Cricket Ground spell out, it really wouldn't be cricket to do anything else. Yesterday, upstairs in one of the hospitality suites, the Prime Minister's audience of Red Dragon radio station listeners were adhering to the rules.

Hands up before you ask a question. Hands up if you want to follow up. Please do not move during overs.

Mr Brown smiled, used the questioner's name deliberately, intently. "How are you Les ... You know what Steve ..." He tried to keep it simple and straightforward as he dealt with questions about volcanic ash, first time house buyers, cheap alcohol and why he'd given it a fortnight before coming to Wales. Not fair, was the answer to that one. Hadn't he brought the cabinet for a historic meeting in the Millennium Stadium a few months ago? Actually he hadn't. It wasn't the Millennium Stadium. It was the same cricket stadium as Mr Brown was visiting yesterday but as faux pas go, hardly a corker.

Sally Roberts told the PM that she was setting up a health and beauty business in Barry. How would Mr Brown make it easier for her to borrow the money she needs from the bank? "It's a great thing you're doing" said the PM, which I can't help hoping Sally will put on her promotional leaflets when opening day comes.

On the day the number of those out of work in Wales rose by another 10,000, the theme was jobs. Labour will protect them. Labour is the party of prospects, of apprenticeships, of job experience. "Just wait for the 110,000 jobs line" whispered a colleague. "There are 110,000 more jobs in Wales than there were in 1997" said Mr Brown.

But the number of those unemployed in Wales have gone up, up and are up again came a follow-up. Mr Brown turned on those parties offering change. Any party that is pledging to make savings of £6bn is going to cost Wales jobs. And Liberal Democrat sums? They don't add up. Tax plans? Don't get him started.

"Behind the froth" of soundbites, it was substance that would matter come polling day said Mr Brown as he set off to meet the faithful in the furthest he made it from Cardiff Central - Cardiff North. To be fair, he was staying in Cardiff South, but still not a huge Welsh geographical spread.

The questions to Labour MPs milling around outside felt more revealing. How were things going on the ground? They were genuinely perplexed. Some had felt the full force of the surge in support for the Liberal Democrats. Others sensed Clegg-mania but no great appetite for his party or his policies. Other simply sense that their chances of hanging on to power have risen from the dead; an election they had lost a month ago is not dead and buried after all. "Put it like this. If you've offered me these opinion polls three weeks ago, I'd have taken them" said one Labour voice.

Unpredictable is pretty good they decided, when the predicted outcome was defeat.


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