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Best behaviour

Nick Robinson | 13:49 UK time, Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Gordon Brown and David CameronHad someone tipped him off, I wonder? Gordon Brown was on best behaviour when he stepped out with David Cameron this morning although, it looked to me, as he was doing almost all the talking. I suspect that he will be rather less respectful to his opponent in the Commons debate this afternoon.

Did this deliver the vision which the prime minister himself acknowledged he needed to set out? Well, that depends on what you mean by a "vision". There is, as yet, no pithy phrase or slogan, no piece of soaring rhetoric, no memorable soundbite that captures what Brown's Britain will look like. His opponents have been quick to deride tired old ideas and policies. He, though, is likely to counter that he has - unlike his opponents - set out plans for how he will meet people's aspirations for education for all, affordable housing and a cleaner environment over the next decade. If it is more of a list of what he'll do to meet voters concerns than what people conventionally call a vision, I suspect he'd say "so be it".

PS. Jack Straw did, after all, walk down the stairs backwards after handing the Queen her speech. I'm told that at yesterday's rehearsal (yes, like weddings, they do rehearse these things) the Lord Chancellor was cheered by the heralds when he ignored the Earl Marshall's advice that these days it was acceptable to walk forwards.


  • 1.
  • At 03:03 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Andy wrote:


Perhaps more interesting than a list of things Brown and Labour now say they will do would be list of things they have said since 1997 that they would do.

  • 2.
  • At 03:32 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Terry Barrett wrote:

I think that Brown has discovered that the phase 'beware of what you wish for' is so very true in this instance.

He has sought power for a long time, and openly resented Blair not handing over power before now. Although the calling of an early election looked like the way to go and all his advisors were urging him to capitalise on the opinion polls the scary prospect of losing after such a short time in charge must have woke him in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.

  • 3.
  • At 03:35 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Geoff Stillwell wrote:

Judging by the content of the Queen's speech, it's not just Jack Straw who's going backwards!

  • 4.
  • At 03:45 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

A Queens speech that sets out to deliver policies for all and not just, Tory voters.

As for Camerons whine about funding of political parties he calls for capping on funding by trade unions each member of a union has to vote on wheather they want to fund unions then on top individual members can opt-out cameron talks about fairness but is he going to give shareholders, pension funds etc the same right not to be bound by boards of directors decisions to fund the Tories.

  • 5.
  • At 03:58 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Mark Watson wrote:

Brown made a big deal out of his "vision for Britain" he even bottled an election so that he could espouse it to the nation.Well he had a great chance to do that today and blew it.
For Gods/all our sakes Gordon, just go.

  • 6.
  • At 04:04 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Chris K wrote:


Re Gordons 'Grand Plan'

Surely we don't want a 'A foreign travel ban on terrorists'

What we need is a compulsory one way foreign travel for terrorists (Out).

  • 7.
  • At 04:05 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • John wrote:

Brown has lost the plot-in fact he never had one!
Tired, heard it all before rhetoric. Aspirations, you must be joking. Hard working people has survived in spite of this government not because of it

  • 8.
  • At 04:12 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • pjd wrote:

Gordon Brown is suggesting we need more houses for european imigrants. A mitigating solution for both problems (overcrowding & green field land utilisation) might be building the houses in eastern europe so that immigrants may prefer to stay in their new houses in their own country

  • 9.
  • At 04:24 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Turkeybellyboy wrote:

I'm sure Gord's a decent bloke, he's just not the person we need to run this Country.

I don't particularly like him, and therefore wouldn't be particularly interested if he *did* come up with something interesting, but I feel we've moved on, and he hasn't... :-(

  • 10.
  • At 04:32 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • James wrote:

Well, naturally Brown can crow about his party coming forward with policy ideas on education, the environment and so on, while the opposition parties don't.

If they did, he'd just pilfer the good ones again.

  • 11.
  • At 04:34 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Quietzapple wrote:

Brown gave a bravura performance in presenting a full programme which deserves widespread support.

The past 3 PMs may all have been seen as having their own visions for Britain, expressed in phrases or policies thus:

Mrs T: "Is he one of us?"

Major minor: "Maiden aunts cycling home ftom church."

Tony Blair: "Modernise for the modern world."

Gordon Brown's will crystallise.

I think it will be something like "Power to aspire," because he is so determined to bring opportunities to all.

  • 12.
  • At 05:00 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • John Portwood wrote:

As far as I can see most of the bills either involve increased spending by the Government, (More Houses, more teachers to teach children until 18, cross-rail) Increased revenue for the Government (Road pricing, stealing dormant bank accounts), Increasing expenditure by employers (forced pensions contributions) and to reduce the ability of the Conservatives to spend their own money. Then there is pie in the sky (CO2 emission), and efforts to save Labour voters who bank with Northern Rock.

Add to it an 'extend period of questioning' act and the implementation of the EU treaty and that's about it.

No real aspiration is there Nick!

  • 13.
  • At 05:06 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Robbie wrote:

I think we ought to have a Queen's speech every wednesday. It is far better entertainment than the Punch 'n Judy PMQ's.

Less misleading also!!!

As for the content of the speech?

Perhaps in view of GB's gauche style it should have begun "Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking...."

  • 14.
  • At 05:16 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Malcolm wrote:

When Blair was PM we had a war between No 10 and the Treasury,but at least that meant there was a brake of sorts in place. Now Brown is PM the treasury is neutered and all the power is vested in No 10, which takes us even closer to a totalitarian future. All the power vested in the hands of one man who has shown scant regard for the electorate, a disinclination to listen to advice or other views, and a messianic belief in his own "vision". We live, as the Chinese would say, in interesting times,or as my granny would have said, no good will come of it.

  • 15.
  • At 05:16 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • philip wrote:

Is it possible there will be a day when people are not cynical about British politics?

  • 16.
  • At 05:21 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • matt king wrote:

I think once again - and it is not just labour but all parties are to blame. I still donlt hear REAL policies that will activate real social change for good. All rhetoric and no action......all talk and no action, but thats kina what we expect from politicians these days

  • 17.
  • At 05:31 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

I have been a labour supporter for some years now. I still think that the country has improved unrecognisably under labour; despite the wars, many cities have been regenerated.

However, I've just realised that there isn't a single policy of Brown's that I agree with. I would vote them out...if I was given an alternative!

  • 18.
  • At 05:41 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • brian wrote:

A tired seedy scotsman - what is he doing in our parliament?

  • 19.
  • At 06:03 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Tom wrote:

Contrary to what Chris says above, companies cannot make political donations without shareholder approval and pension funds cannot make political donations at all. Labour has already reformed political funding to attack funding for the Conservatives. The idea of capping union donations is thus quite equitable. Indeed, I know of trades union members who would be happy to pay the political levy if they could have it donated to the Lib Dems or the Tories rather than Labour, a choice which in fairness they should have. It also remains the case that you have to opt out of the political levy rather than opt in, which is fundamentally undemocratic when currently unions only donate to Labour.

While watching the BBC1 coverage this morning, there was an email in asking what would happen if the Queen refused to give her assent to any of the government measures and the answer was that a constitutional crisis would ensue. It is usually assumed that the Queen would be denying Parliament which represents the people (Parliament is sovereign) of their wishes and of course her powers are very limited now but what if she refused to give her assent to something the British public was greatly against? eg the new EU Treaty. Would the public side with the Queen or would the overriding constitutional principle take precedence here?

  • 21.
  • At 07:40 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • JBM wrote:

Quietzapple, do you work for Gordon?

  • 22.
  • At 07:47 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

I find it astonishing that no-one has really taken Brown to task over this issue of 'change' (over to you Nick).

For 10 years this man was the second most powerful man in Government - some would argue THE most powerful as he lorded it over Government departments, significantly enhancing the Treasury's influence in the process.

He has been party to a decade of policy initiatives, spending decisions and spin. I find it reprehensible that he can now abdicate responsibility and insist the country needs to change.

Remember the "Education, Education, Education" mantra? Despite the massive injection of cash we appear to have made little progress, on literacy for example. Ditto with the NHS - massive amounts of cash and even now we are faced with ward and even hospital closures.

The whole will he/won't he call an election fiasco as well as the frankly appalling 'magpie' Autumn Budget Statement from Darling reinforces the need for change. Given he got us into this mess in the first place, surely its time for the ultimate change - a new Government.

  • 23.
  • At 08:29 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Pongo wrote:

I am depressed by the gulf between the rhetoric and the reality.

Take the Planning Reform Bill that is proposed. Yes, we have a huge issue about planning and delivering major infrastructure, not least in the context of reducing our damage to the environment. But where is this linked to Hazel Blears's insistence on 'empowerment'? How are local communities to be engaged, even helped, to take part in thes debates?

  • 24.
  • At 10:49 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Mike Perry wrote:

The Queens speach missed out that Scotland has its own parliment, and all Scottish MP's should go there, then we can have a cbinet of Englishmen, and an English Prime Minister.

  • 25.
  • At 10:51 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Simon wrote:


The Queens speech had already been delivered at least once before, by Gordon in another of those now famous 'Pre' announcements that 'new labour' love.

It all seams a bit like we haven't really got much to tell you, so

We’ll tell you what we're going to tell you,
Then we'll tell you
And then we'll tell you what we've told you.

Lots of words but nothing new.

This government has clearly run out of ideas. The cheap grasps of the Prime Minister at the despatch box desperately trying to goad the opposition into telling him what his policies should be, is not the image of the kind of leader I expect to be running this country.

Gordon has waited a long time to become the leader of this country, I fear that he has underestimated what it takes to lead it.

  • 26.
  • At 11:48 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Justin wrote:

The problem with Gordon Brown is that he is still not being himself.

He keeps recycling old phrases ("Britain of all the talents" / "the aspirations of the British people" etc) and the fact is it all sounds too political. It's so political in fact, that it just doesn't sound "real". Everything he says in public has "proper politician" written all over it.

We've gone from one extreme to the other - From having a laid back "regular kinda guy" to whatever it is you call this over-politicalness epitomised by Mr. Brown.

I know we live in a media savvy age but why can't people just be themselves?

  • 27.
  • At 01:01 AM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • dave wrote:

Do they honestly expect convicted terrorists to report their movements to the local police?

Gordon Brown has lost touch with reality and the human rights of terrorists have become more important than our own national security.

  • 28.
  • At 01:02 AM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Well we didn't vote for him, but we got him anyway. I am a single working parent and under Brown i am £100 worse off every month. Oh thanks to Brown for the 100 pence litre fuel, the higher cost of mortgages, oh and all the europeans we have provided jobs for. What about our 6 million on benefits brown? Change the way they are counted, but they are still there. Child poverty on the increase. Oh and the treaty in which you have given away the powers we lent the labour party. They are not yours to give away. Give us a SAY.

Well there was Grey Major, and Brown Brown. Both dreary, uninspiring and ineffectual.

  • 29.
  • At 01:23 AM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Martyn wrote:

Just seen your news report saying the climate change bill will cut emissions "to 60%" - it will actually cut them by 60% (i.e. to 40%). Sorry to be a pedant, especially when there isn't a climate scientist in the country who would say is adequate whichever way round it was....

  • 30.
  • At 01:33 AM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Charles E Hardwidge wrote:

Another good one, Nick. The Prime Minister's sound and affable approach sets a positive lead. His approach to setting out a vision looks typical for someone like him but as time goes by, I suspect, he'll develop a more polished approach and people will feel more comfortable with taking things on board. It's not a flashy victory but neither is it a disaster. If this small development can continue to be worked things should become more simple, clear, positive, and consensual over time. The key is to accept these things and let them happen in their own time. No need for panic. No need to rush. Success unfolds of its own accord.

  • 31.
  • At 02:01 AM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • James Manning wrote:

Interesting how Tebbit's shut up since the Tories' revival.


If you want to judge the success of the Queen's Repeats you just had to look at the benches behind Brown. If I was Gordon I'd be wondering who was going to tell the media that I looked tired.

  • 33.
  • At 11:28 AM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Tony McRush wrote:

I am fed up with the way the media says the PM lost yesterday in the debate. Is there some tory bias in the house of commons media area. Is there some Oxford code you need to do to win a debate. I cannot for the life of me see where the PM lost the debate. Yet week after week we here Cameron wiped the floor with the PM. This is not what i see. Cameron did a good show, which made the PM's effort more impressive that he was ale to land some blows on Cameron.
Can someone please explain what was so poor about the PM display yesterday. Is this some media conspiracy. Is there some code you have to win a debate?
I htink what happens you think the perosn you agree with won? I admitt I am labour, but even i can tell well a labour perosn has not put forward an argument. Yes the PM was nervous but cameron stuttered too, making some mistakes. Is the labour spin team just abysmal?
I think Cameron has won two PMQs and the PM one, the rest have been pretty equal. While if anything I thoguht the PM won yesterday.

  • 34.
  • At 01:31 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Jeremy wrote:

A dreary old man, with dreary old policies, from a dreary old party, with dreary old ideas.
Time for a change PLEASE!

I think Brown's 'vision' is to bring opportunities to all - this I think he will pursue more than Blair did.

People should look beyond the day-to-day griping (e.g. about who thought up a policy such as Inheritance tax reform) and look at the general picture of what the policies in the Queen's speech mean for Britain. To a large extent, most of the policies address the challenges we face - the need to raise attainment in education, combat terrorism, create a fairer tax system, and a cleaner environment, etc.

The spectacle of the Queen and all her lords & ladies dressed up for the occasion emphasised to me how out-dated many aspects of parliament & our state really are. The PM should be setting out his programme in the commons, not an un-elected monarch who has no real mandate to rule over us. Brown's pre-Queen's speech announcement a few weeks ago made this 'main event' all but irrelevant.

  • 36.
  • At 05:14 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Nigel Wheatcroft wrote:

Gordon Brown has a vision has he,well from this speech it is very hard to see what it is.It is all the same old rhetoric,nothing new at all.
This government is past it sell by date and is clinging on to power for the sake of it.They have not caught onto the fact that the world has moved on but they are ten years behind and their priorities are all wrong.

  • 37.
  • At 09:12 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Oscar Miller wrote:

Ironic that Gordon is giving so much emphasis to 'aspiration' given quite how lacking in aspiration he is as PM. Maybe his new motto is 'aspiration is for other people'.

  • 38.
  • At 10:05 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Matthew Moggridge wrote:

This whole thing about Gordon Brown having to set out his 'vision' of what 'Brown's Britain' will look like, I was just wondering whether this was some prime ministerial pre-requisite of the job (which has been in place for years) or simply something that Blair (and the media) kind of initiated and that everyone thinks Brown should follow. It starts with a vision and ends, perhaps, with a legacy? The media made a big thing about Blair's legacy which lent a kind of contrived nature to the notion of prime ministers having one, and now, I assume, that all future prime ministers will be required to have some kind of recognised legacy rather than one that simply occurs organically. Perhaps it's me, but I can't recall people discussing the legacies of past prime ministers as if they were essays handed in to be criticised and commented upon. It's almost as if prime ministers are now required to dream up some kind of mission statement which encapsulates their vision and then produce a 'legacy' for when they leave office.

  • 39.
  • At 05:50 PM on 09 Nov 2007,
  • David wrote:

There's a lot of incoherent moaning and calling the PM names on these blogs...

...all very therapeutic, I'm sure, but where are we supposed to find actual debate?

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