I watched some of the Queen’s Speech debate yesterday, with the intention of watching it all. Instead, I didn’t. I thought that the increasingly brutal exchanges between Gordon Brown and David Cameron were ugly, and not nice viewing.
Fundamentally I blame Gordon Brown and his cheap-shot politics. I increasingly adhere to the view that Brown is a Prime Minister without a strategy. He resorts to doing everything he can to derail and discredit the opposition, never mind how low he has to stoop, and never mind how undignified he might look.
For instance, to disorientate the opposition he allowed talk of an early election to snowball out of control. Tactically, it was good while it lasted, though he failed to jump off that particular train before it hit the buffers.
Inviting Margaret Thatcher to Number Ten is about the lowest Brown stooped to get one over David Cameron. And it certainly looked low, though not that he cared. It might, after all, win him a few votes.
And then there was the visit to Iraq in the middle of the Conservative conference. Not one of his best, though again, not that he cared. Nothing ventured nothing gained.
Cameron should refrain from stooping to Brown’s level. While Brown has enough credibility to play gutter politics, Cameron doesn’t. Yet, he can’t resist teasing the PM at every opportunity.
Yesterday, some serious questions should have been raised about the role of the state. Increasing the education leaving age to 18 is a very serious policy, which requires serious debate.
Instead, the Six O’clock news featured Cameron poking and sniping at Brown for copying Tory inheritance tax proposals, which in truth is debatable, and even if it isn’t, won’t have gone unnoticed by the general public.
The sight of the Tory front bench, red-faced and wriggling with laughter, slapping their knees and jeering at the government bench, looked unattractive. Brown, standing awkwardly at the dispatch box, embarrassing himself again, looked no better.
And what was the Conservative’s non-election day poster about? Surely people have already judged Brown on his election u-turn. The poster looked a bit ‘yesterday’s news’.
Cameron may not have heard of this saying: It goes, “Never fight with a chimney-sweep”, or you yourself get covered in soot.
It strikes me that here are two opponents virtually neck a neck. The polls seem to suggest that while the Conservatives have improved their position since the summer, there’s not much distance between the two parties. If analysts such as Peter Riddell are correct, this could be where the polls finally settle after a period of volatility.
In one sense Brown and Cameron are equals. Cameron is too nimble for Brown to keep up with, but Brown makes Cameron look light-weight. So they chase each other’s tails, in what is an increasingly angry tussle for public opinion, in which both sides will stoop to win a headline.
Brown, being the initiator of this politics, will be judged by the electorate at the next election. Though at this rate, they won’t have much of an alternative.