Cameron attacks PM's 'short-term tricks'

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Indy Politics

David Cameron used the Commons debate on the Queen's Speech to launch his most personal attack yet on the Prime Minister as he declared: "There is only one black hole in British politics and that is the gap where the Prime Minister's credibility used to be."

Mr Cameron went on to lambast the Queen's Speech as "all short-term tricks instead of long-term problem solving".

Vince Cable, the acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, also attacked the legislative programme as lacking in vision.

But Gordon Brown tore into Mr Cameron's policies, insisting that the Tory leader was "good on jokes but pretty bad on policy" and hailing the measures in the Queen's Speech as a "legislative programme that takes the next step forward for a stronger, fairer Britain".

In angry exchanges, Mr Cameron drew fury from the Labour benches as he accused Mr Brown of using the language of the far-right National Front and British National Party in promising "British jobs for British workers".

Mr Cameron told MPs: "People are asking is that it? Yet another relaunch, yet another rehash of short-term gimmicks and the same old thinking."

He claimed that Mr Brown was "bending with the wind and buffeted by events", insisting: "Say what you like about Tony Blair, at least he was decisive.

"Isn't the only change we have had is to swap a strong Prime Minister for a weak one?"

Mr Cameron attacked the Government over pledges to "deep clean" hospitals, over welfare reform and education, and accused ministers of stealing and recycling proposals.

The Tory leader said: "This Queen's Speech doesn't represent – and he doesn't represent – any real change. He knows he has to talk about change. The trouble is, he can't deliver change. That's what the whole country discovered this autumn.

"Yes, he can do the gestures, he can wear a blue tie, he can speak in front of a blue background, he can even invite Lady Thatcher round to tea. But when it comes to real, substantive change this Prime Minister is not capable of offering anything new."

He told Mr Brown to "look me in the eye" and confirm that he had planned to reform inheritance tax before the Conservatives published proposals at their conference this autumn to lift the levy from millions. Mr Brown replied: "The answer is 'yes'. Unequivocally, yes... all the records will show it, under whatever rules they are released."

To the delight of the Conservative benches, Mr Cameron repeated his challenge to Mr Brown to confirm that he was not looking at the opinion polls before calling off plans for an autumn general election.

The Prime Minister told Mr Cameron: "Under your policy, 3,000 of the richest estates in the country will get a benefit totalling £1bn. Think of it as an average of five people in each constituency taking £1bn that could employ 25,000 teachers and nurses."

Mr Cameron replied: "The difference between our policy and your policy is that we thought of it and you stole it."

The Tory leader added: "While we are on this mission in pursuit of the truth, will you look across the despatch box and tell us that you weren't looking at the polls when you cancelled the general election?"

Mr Brown replied: "Isn't it amazing? When it comes to real policy, when it comes to discussing the long-term future of this country you are not even in a position to join the debate. On every major issue, Europe, tax, spending, education for review, you have failed to face up to the big challenges ahead.

"You are not aiming for opportunity for all, you are failing to meet the stability test. Unaffordable tax cuts and the threat to stability are too big a risk for this country."

Mr Cable attacked Mr Brown's first Queen's Speech as lacking any new ideas. He told MPs: "The sense of anti-climax is deafening. We have very little new, no ideas, little vision and is this really what we are waiting for.

"The Prime Minister now cuts a rather sad figure. He was introduced to us a few months ago by his predecessor as the great clunking fist but the boxing story has gone completely awry.

"The great boxing champion, as he once was, made himself unconscious falling over his own bootlaces and he is now staggering around the ring semi-conscious and lost, hanging on to the ropes.

Mr Cable added: "What certainly is absent is any forward movement and new ideas."

But the Prime Minister hailed his legislative programme, declaring: "On energy, housing, pensions, education, work-life balance, citizenship and anti-terrorism measures, the central purpose of this legislative programme is to make the right long-term changes to prepare and equip our country for the future and to meet the rising aspirations of the British people."