The Sketch: Stolen policies are PM's tainted fruit

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The Independent Online

No PMQs yesterday, so a Sketch-point from the day before. David Cameron asked the PM about inheritance tax thresholds. Look me in the eye, he'd said. Go on, tell me you were going to reform the tax before we Tories said we were going to do it.

Something odd was going on while the question was being asked, Gordon wasn't tapping the table in front of him, impatient to get up and say, "The answer is yes, unequivocally yes!"

No, he was leaning across and conferring with Alistair Darling. What on earth for? What could they say to each other, there in public, in front of the world, that they hadn't said before?

Gordon was obviously aware of all tax proposals in the Chancellor's announcement. He'd have attended a meeting in the summer to discuss inheritance tax thresholds? The meeting would have been minuted, necessarily (no more sofa government, you recall). What more did he need there in front of his tormentor but his knowledge of the decision in May or June or July? Whatever lack of certainty was cleared up there on the front bench leading to the Prime Minister answering Cameron with the words, "Yes, unequivocally yes". Maybe "all the records will show it" as he says. But it looks shifty, manipulative even. Why not just show us the minutes of the meeting? He says "all the records" will be released under Freedom of Information – why not show the one piece of paper that shows clearly he is telling the truth?

There are those who have known Mr Brown who say he has never looked less happy. That sets a new global standard of grievance.

Introducing yesterday's debate, Jack Straw was looking almost prime ministerial. That may come in handy. The Home Secretary looked like the trolley lady. David Davis looked like the most successful shadow home secretary since Tony Blair. Let's hope his career doesn't follow the same trajectory or he will find, as Gordon Brown is finding, that the job is a hell of a lot harder than it looks.

My bet is that Davis will win a great parliamentary victory against the Government on the anti-terror argument. His questions have inconvenient answers for the PM.

Why resist intercept evidence? The FBI says it is more often than not decisive.

Why the desire to raise the detention time limit? When Davis said the words "innocent people" and "28 days" there was a disturbance. But if those released were still suspicious, why weren't they subjected to surveillance? Or control orders indeed? And why all the energy put into control orders at all when there are only 14 held with seven run aways?

Yes, it was, we now see, just a party political desire to outflank the Tories. Low politics produces a tainted fruit. Gordon won't like the taste of it at all.