Gordon Brown has stoked the police pay row by saying that holding down their pay rise to 1.9 per cent was "in the national interest".
Mr Brown's uncompromising remarks could swing a ballot in favour of the call for the right to strike by police officers who are furious at the refusal of the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith to implement their 2.5 per cent pay award in full.
"I would like to pay the police more, just as I would like to pay the nurses and those people who commit themselves daily to public service more, but you have to take a broader view of the national interest," said Mr Brown. "Nobody wants to say to the police, you cannot get a higher salary. But nobody wants inflation to return to the British economy and have pay awards wiped out simply by rising inflation."
Questioned by MPs at a hearing of the Commons Liaison Committee for two hours, Mr Brown tried to draw a line under weeks of trouble over party funding, missing data, and the Northern Rock collapse. It was not a hard grilling, but he showed like his predecessor, Tony Blair, that he could handle the questioning easily.
At the meeting, the Prime Minister stuck to his main message that he would get on with the business of governing, in the hope that in the long run, the Government would regain its reputation for competence, particularly over its delivery of reforms to the public services.