“Appropriate reward” for backing 42 days – Cameron ambushes Brown with fresh allegations

According to TV presenter Andrew Neil on today’s “Daily Politics” show on BBC 2, at 11.51 this morning nine minutes before Prime Minister’s Questions, the Daily Telegraph posted on its website the leak of a handwritten letter from Labour Chief Whip Geoff Hoon to Home Affairs Committee Chair Keith Vaz.

In the letter, Hoon thanks Vaz for his help in persuading fellow Labour MPs to back the crucial vote on a 42 days detention limit without charge for terrorist suspects.

David Cameron was obviously primed to spring the trap question on Gordon Brown, what did Hoon mean by “reward?”

Brown was at first stumped for much of an answer, beyond a straight denial. But he went on to take refuge in that earlier, strangely over-respectful denial of a deal with the DUP, a charge that still rumbles round the Westminster corridors: “As for that earlier Ulster Unionist and DUP allegation, you (Cameron) should listen to what they say about terrorism, they know more about it than anyone else in the House.”

He finally charged Cameron to produce evidence to the House of improper dealing, if he could find it.

This is not the first time the notion of a reward for Vaz has arisen. It was put to him when the Home Affair Select Committee published a report last year that told the government what to do, to meet key objections to a detention limit beyond 28 days.

Observers are scratching their heads, wondering what any “appropriate reward” for Vaz could be. He has passed beyond cabinet promotion and Labour are mean about awarding political knighthoods. Vaz is already a privy councillor, a “Rt Hon”.

Of course if you’re DUP or UU, you don’t get peerages and privy councillorships for supporting the government; only for doing the right thing ( in the end).

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London