PMQs: Miliband’s no diamond but just about shone enough

Labour win this battle today, but Libor might yet torpedo their ship writes Harry Cole

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Miliband got the better of Cameron today
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Harry Cole
On 4 July 2012 11:38

It’s been awhile since we’ve had a storm blowing that is even more damaging for the opposition than it is for the government. The Libor crisis may look a bit dodgy for the Tories and their banking chums, but it happened on Labour’s watch and their decade of worshiping at the corporate alter has come back and hit them in the face. Very hard.

The dividing lines drawn today were a distraction tactic. Labour, and the public, want their judge-led, Leveson-style inquiry. They want this to drag on until past the next election. Any findings will be far more damaging to Miliband and Balls, who were at the heart of Brown’s government when blind eyes were being turned and active encouragement was being given to the Bank of England and the City to reduce Libor.

You can always tell when both sides are bricking it because they pretend to be all statesmen-like; trying to score points by pretending not to be trying to score points.

Needless to say this leads to dull exchange, all in very serious, hushed tones. This was not today’s biggest show in Parliament – that will be Bob Diamond vs. the Treasury Select Committee after lunch – and the tone and level of questioning reflected that to begin with.

Give us a public inquiry, cried Ed; no, cried Dave. Miliband had Cameron’s own words up his sleeve, throwing his delay over setting up the Leveson Inquiry at him. Cameron argued that the circumstances surrounding Leveson were very different given that it followed several unsuccessful inquires, whereas with the banks, the Vickers Review and inquires in the States have worked; hence we now need a round up, so to speak.

It was all very tedious with lots of sombre nodding on the benches. Given that it’s likely that the Parliamentary inquiry will go ahead, there needed to be at least an air of possibility that the two parties can work together if need be.

Any consensus fell apart towards the end of the exchange though when Miliband niggled the PM enough for him to politely remind the Labour leader that his government had over a decade to sort the mess out and do nothing. Suddenly the race to the pious bottom was over and the gloves were off.

Cameron looked stung by Miliband cleverly throwing Cameron’s lines re light touch regulation and free markets in his face. Cameron was right to say that different types of regulation were needed and, perhaps, if we actually had a free market we wouldn’t need government meddling. But that’s a discussion for another day.

“The party opposite want to talk about everything but their thirteen years in power” said the PM. I imagine his foot was being stamped under the table – the very table that was the only thing stopping the PM leaping across the divide and throttling Ed one, if his face was anything to go by at least.

With a terrible line about finding the Higgs Bosen particle, but Labour being unable to find any shame, and with a groan echoing around the House, out of nowhere, Miliband had won their bout again.

Though Cameron came back late in the day with a direct appeal for Labour to back parliament and not to try and “avoid having their dirty washing aired in public”, it was too late. Labour won the first battle today, but this war could destroy them yet. 

Harry Cole is the UK Political Editor for The Commentator. He tweets at @MrHarryCole where you can catch up on his musings as well as his work for the Guido Fawkes blog

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