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Stand up time

Nick Robinson | 09:10 UK time, Monday, 8 October 2007

Here we go again. The prime minister, we're told, "will brave the inquisition/face the music/confront the feral beast [choose cliche of choice] at the beginning of his worst week yet".

Heard it before? Of course you have, whenever Tony Blair was in the soup. Downing Street organised today's news conference to show that Gordon Brown, just like his predecessor, could withstand the slings and arrows, the name-calling and the cat calls and still emerge looking like a prime minister.

The truth is that he would far rather do this at a news conference than in the bear-pit of Parliament or a round with the media's toughest interviewers. It isn't that difficult when you get to choose the questions (allowing you to say "the lady at the back with the headscarf" if the going gets tough and you fancy a detour into the Middle East) and you disallow follow-ups and when you stand up in the state rooms of Downing Street looking prime ministerial.

Naturally, it would not be wise of me to set out what I hope to ask. As ever the Mrs Merton approach (see blogs passim) would be the most apt and fun but ultimately too facetious:

"Prime minister, what finally convinced you to call off an election which the pollsters told you you might lose?"

Your suggestions for what I should ask always gratefully received.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 10:01 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • John, Devon wrote:

Ask him whether he will consult on a bill to implement four year fixed-term parliaments, or whether political opportunism will ensure that whoever is in power at any given time will refuse to consider this.

  • 2.
  • At 10:21 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Johnt wrote:

When's the re-shuffle?
I'd prefer you to ask about policy differences :
"are you considering raising IHT and stamp duty thresholds, policies which seem so popular"
or
Why have you only criticised Cameron on the "affordability " aspect of his tax policies, why not on the principle that giving tax breaks to the relatively wealthy doesn't address the important issues. Do you intend to do exactly the same as Cameron?

  • 3.
  • At 10:33 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Howard wrote:

1. Will the Government postpone the CSR review as there is now no justification for this being made on Tuesday?

  • 4.
  • At 10:49 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • paul wrote:

If he wants to show what he can de before being judged, surely it is only fair for the oppostion to be given the same priviledge?

Is he going to let carmeron and campbell run the country for a bit before the next election to give a level playing field?

Of course he isn't.

Don't ask any questions - everyone present should just listen in silence and then leave.

As you say, there will be no worthwhile answers, so why give it the an artificial gloss of credibility?

  • 5.
  • At 10:49 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • slochd wrote:

Nick, how about asking "Prime minister, When did you realise you were playing right into the hands of the opposition" or "When did you realise the stakes were so great?" or finally "When are you planning to meet with Tony and his wife for some guidance on leadership?".............

  • 6.
  • At 10:56 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • paul wrote:

If he wants to show what he can de before being judged, surely it is only fair for the oppostion to be given the same priviledge?

Is he going to let carmeron and campbell run the country for a bit before the next election to give a level playing field?

Of course he isn't.

Don't ask any questions - everyone present should just listen in silence and then leave.

As you say, there will be no worthwhile answers, so why give it the an artificial gloss of credibility?

(ps. the script for posting comments seems broken - often it just hangs and doesn't give a confirmation - so necesitating a repost).

  • 7.
  • At 11:10 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • David wrote:

"Prime Minister, how are we to improve a political system dominated by defensive, PR-led politicians fending off sarky, superior journalists, all talking amongst themselves in a language most of the country finds irrelevant?"

  • 8.
  • At 11:10 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Andy R wrote:

You could ask him why he should be allowed to build a track record when he has no mandate from the public and doesn't have the confidence to ask for it either.

Most PMs don't have the luxury of running the country without the authority of votes, without the need to live up to accountable promises, but purely on the strength of a bequeathed position of office and fortunate timing of election cycle.

  • 9.
  • At 11:24 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Kevin Andrews wrote:

I don't think it was the polls. He'll always be in a position where 'he might lose',I think it was coming up with a good reason to explain any decision to go for an election (apart from the polls being favourable, which would have been slammed as massive opportunism throughout the campaign). In the end, when this 9 day wonder has faded from the papers, I think Brown has made the right call. With hindsight the PM should have ruled out an early election from the outset; but how many politicians close their options down so readily? I think Mr.Brown can at least say he made the right call under pressure, which is what being PM is all about. He would have been foolish to risk all to avoid a bit of name calling, again, as PM , putting up with name calling is part of the job.

  • 10.
  • At 11:24 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Tom wrote:

What have you learnt from this week?
What level of detail did Des Browne have have regarding your announcement re. troops in Iraq?

  • 11.
  • At 11:27 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Ed wrote:

"Prime Minister, is Brown the new Yellow?"

  • 12.
  • At 11:33 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • John Harvey wrote:

Nick, you should ask him whether 'he thinks that the events of the past weeks leading up to his announcement not to have an election have enhanced his reputation as a strong leader with the voters of the country and whether it makes them think his government spin more or less than his predecessor?'

Is his position safe as Labour leader, and is it true that a split has opened between the Brownites and the Milibites?

  • 14.
  • At 11:39 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • paul wrote:

If he wants to show what he can de before being judged, surely it is only fair for the oppostion to be given the same priviledge?

Is he going to let carmeron and campbell run the country for a bit before the next election to give a level playing field?

Of course he isn't.

Don't ask any questions - everyone present should just listen in silence and then leave.

As you say, there will be no worthwhile answers, so why give it the an artificial gloss of credibility?

(ps. the script for posting comments seems broken - often it just hangs and doesn't give a confirmation - so necesitating a repost).

  • 15.
  • At 11:40 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Prime Minister. In ruling out an election now you stated it was so that you could show people the policies that are going to make a huge difference and make a change in the whole country itself.

In order that people can judge you on these terms when an election does come perhaps you could indicated what specific policies you are refering to and what huge changes we can look forward too over the coming year

  • 16.
  • At 11:46 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Krishn Shah wrote:

Why did you bring forward your trip to Iraq, the CPR and Health review interim findings? Was this because you were going to call an election?

Did you meet Rupert Murdoch at Cheqeurs over the weekend?

If you wanted to develop your policies why were your staff briefing the media over an Autumn election?

Would you say you're "a straight kinda guy"?


Is his position safe as Labour leader, and is it true that a split has opened between the Brownites and the Milibites?

  • 18.
  • At 11:49 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Jon Gregory wrote:

Regarding his vision, just ask him if he was a key player in the last 10 years of NuLab, under Anthony Blair

  • 19.
  • At 11:52 AM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • M D wrote:

Prime Minister, why are you seeking to dismantle policies (Iraq/casinos/cannabis) which you found acceptable while at number 10? Why did you not express your doubts long before now?

  • 20.
  • At 12:00 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Philip, Bristol wrote:

Couple of question suggestions.

If the polls played no part in his decision what has changed (except for the polls) from two weeks ago and why didn’t he quash the rumours then?

If the polls played NO part in his decision as he said on Saturday why has Jack Straw now said they were a factor. As both statements can’t be correct which one of them is being “economical with the truth”?

  • 21.
  • At 12:13 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Tom wrote:

What have you learnt from this week?
What level of detail did Des Browne have have regarding your announcement re. troops in Iraq?

  • 22.
  • At 12:19 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • David Simmons wrote:

How about: 'Prime Minister, isn't it true that you fully intended to call an election this autumn, because the economic situation in the UK has now deteriorated so significantly under your 10-year tenure as Chancellor, from the healthy situation which you inherited from the Conservatives..?'

  • 23.
  • At 12:29 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Philip, Bristol wrote:

Couple of question suggestions.

If the polls played no part in his decision what has changed (except for the polls) from two weeks ago and why didn’t he quash the rumours then?

If the polls played NO part in his decision as he said on Saturday why has Jack Straw now said they were a factor. As both statements can’t be correct which one of them is being “economical with the truth”?

  • 24.
  • At 12:33 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Tony, London wrote:

- what would you say is the correct multiple of income to be borrowed by an average person to buy their home ?

- do you regret the announcement about troop numbers in Iraq and agree that it appeared to undermine your self professed standing as a policitician above cheap spin and sound bites ?

- now that Mr Bliar has embarrased both himself and a nation by reducing the honours system to a farce, are you ready to change the way in which public recognition is acheived by stopping that charade ?

- how much of the growth in UK GDP during the last decade was accounted for by the growth in personal debt rather than a rise in wealth ?

- At Conference, you studiously avoided mentioning your opposition and the background briefings made it clear this refelcted your contempt for them as not being worthy oponents. It has also been said that the youth in your cabinet hides a fear of peronal challenge. Who would you describe as your biggest challenger ?

- which financial institution will collapse next ? The pound, the FTSE, the pension system or your reputation ?

  • 25.
  • At 01:40 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

You could ask him whether, given the way is his obviously lying when he says that his reasons for not calling an election were anything other than the opinion polls, he has now given up on his idea of creating a new, more honest kind of politics.

  • 26.
  • At 02:05 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • David Smart wrote:

When will the Conservative policy on inheritance tax become New Labour's?

  • 27.
  • At 03:00 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • John Constable wrote:

The most valuable piece of information given here by Nick is the 'parameters' of the news conference.

Viewers are rarely, if ever, told before the piece is broadcast, that for instance, follow-up questions have been barred.

We, the hapless English public, simply watch and listen and are ultimately left wondering about the crucial context of the interview.

When television and politics mix, nothing is ever what it seems, despite the best efforts of Nick and Co.

Still, lets count our blessings, it is not North Korea (although in its sophisticated way of gathering information about you, closer than you'd think) ... yet.

  • 28.
  • At 04:38 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Nick wrote:

Brown said that the 5 billion tax a year cuts of the Tories were uncosted and dangerous.

Ask him if his 9.1 billion borrowing in August (1 month) is dangerous, preferably as a follow up to comments on the first.

Nick

  • 29.
  • At 07:46 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Ed wrote:

I listened to the news conference and Browns inability to tell the truth was disgraceful. Lies and uncontrollable spinning. The continual reference to 'visions' was plainly alarming - the man is going mad.

Nick, can you look at your children tonight and feel comfortable with the political leadership of their home country? Seriously?

When will the Press hold Brown and Co. fully to account?

  • 30.
  • At 01:55 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Robbie wrote:

PM questions is a pantomime - under Tony and now Gordon. Can think of heaps of valid questions that will not be answered and REWARD you a life of incarceration at the Tower. So I suggest you ALL change your names to PATSY VACUOUS and ask about the weather !

My question would be about Iraqi oil and the pressing need for regime change in non-oil producing countries.

Think you do a thankless job - but admire you and your professionalism.

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