I have deliberately hesitated for a no of hours before blogging on yesterday's incident in the Commons, because it was an unpleasant and emotive PMQ's and I wanted to be sure a) What happened exactly and b) That I was fair in how I covered this. In any case both Labourhome and Iain Dale have covered this already.
Lets look at the actual clash first before heading to the subject matter. I think it may well be fair to say that David Cameron and Gordon Brown personally, as well as politically, dislike each other. They are not the first PM and Opposition leader to be contemptuous of each other, but this is not a healthy situation to be in. It means one has difficulty in holding back when an opportunity arises to savagely kick the other when they are down (to the point of offending the public), and it also means that one is always expecting the worst in the other and that is that second point which I think helped cause yesterdays bout of ill temper.
The perception of David Cameron amongst many of us in the Labour Party (and other political parties), is that he is a cynical opportunist who will kick Gordon Brown at every moment. The opportunism view has come about through the Lexus incident, the huskies in Norway incident, the family holiday incident. The nastiness towards Gordon Brown can be seen with his "Strange Man" comments, and of course this is someone who said he was not going into Punch and Judy politics and who was once a member of the Bullingdon Club. I won't go into why people dislike Gordon Brown, that would more difficult for me as I personally like the guy, although he can be rather shy and he does lack the polish of his predecessor, but maybe that isn't a bad thing. In general, try as I might, it is unfortunate that I find it hard to be objective about Cameron and Brown.
So when the debate in the Commons started and Cameron eschewed Brown's answers, it did look as if he was trying to pin the blame on the government. To be fair and honest I don't know if that is true and I think Brown was wrong to mention party politics, but if I were Brown and I took a personal dislike to Cameron for the reasons above, then I would be simmering away under the surface, thinking that Cameron was trying to pin the blame on Baby P's death on the government. The PM's mistake was to let is emotions get the better of him.
Now I admit, that I equally dislike David Cameron as a cynical opportunist (if that isn't obvious already), but I don't think that he wasn't being cynical and playing party politics, I hope not anyway. But for both his sake and Gordon Brown's I think it is best that they both try to forget this incident and work at looking at ways in which they can respect each other as people. It can be done. Churchill and Attlee were unrelenting as opponents, and yet they had a mutual respect that helped the political dynamics be a little less personal. As did Thatcher and Wilson, Major and Smith, Blair and Hague.