PMQs: A pointless win for the PM
Cameron got one over an off-form Miliband this week but it was to no avail in the light of events, dear boy writes Harry Cole
Regular PMQs punters noted before the Prime Minister even stood up that the ground for this week’s battle was in his favour. It had been softened up the looming prospect of the statement on the Hillsborough files immediately after the bout.
The Leader of the Opposition would have been a fool to go in too heavy this afternoon and both leaders were doing their best to out-statesman each other in an unedifying schtick. Miliband has a long way to go on this – like him or loath him, even Cameron’s worst enemies concede that he does sombre apologies, of which many have fallen on his watch, rather well.
Not only was Dave’s weekly dance with democracy neutered, but he also had a miniscule improvement in unemployment figures to crow about, and crow he did. Miliband rightly put these in the context of the long term forecast and any fanfare around this slightly improvement is dwarfed when compared to the continuing soar in the borrowing figures.
And as if that wasn’t enough of a head-start for the PM, Labour’s week has been overshadowed by the assembled collection of fruitcakes, clipboarders and central casting workin’ class-es assembled for the TUC conference in Brighton. These deficit-denying, placard-waving, taxpayer-draining, oxygen-hogging lunatics have decided to put forward plans for a General Strike. Frankly this is a fantastic idea and great way to cut the public sector wage bill, though sadly the PM did not see it in such a light.
Instead he decided to give Miliband a little slap about it, which was better than nothing I suppose. Apparently this union action is a “threat to wreck the economy". Perhaps, but many suspect the overbloated state would actually find hidden reserves of latent productivity and blunder on with their extremist core shivering on the barricades outside, but c'est la vie.
Labour has taken £12 million off these economic terrorists proclaimed the PM to assorted oohs and ahhs. Cameron pre-distributed the attacks before Miliband had even stood up, so when he did his welcoming of the employment figures made the Leader of the Opposition look like he was trying to gurgle sand.
Ed was off form today. Instead of sticking to his borrowing line of attack – perhaps Cameron and Osborne’s biggest weakness right now – he frothed and flitted and wasted time trying to bark up a populist tree of asking whether Cameron paid the top rate of attack. His jokes about reshuffle were also pretty flat given that it was last week’s news. His tired line about the government putting up taxes on everyone but the rich also fails that pesky little test: “is it true?”
The last budget, while terribly spun, did do great things like taking two million people out of income tax altogether, but Miliband did not let that inconvenient fact get in the way of his hectoring. Miliband’s teasing and tittle tattle did not stack up against the savagery of the put down of Ed’s entire ideological platform.
There was a rare glint of the savage form that Cameron used to make look effortless against Gordon Brown, especially on Ed’s new pre-distribution mantra: “I think what that means is you spend the money before you get it, and that is why we are in the mess we are today”. Apparently it’s based on a book called The Road to Nowhere. “He doesn't need to read it” said Cameron, “he’s already there.”
Ed was left spluttering about the Prime Minister not answering the question, a tell-tale sign of defeat. The Prime Minister got a rough ride of the backbenchers, but not quite enough to ruin his outing.
It’s rare these days, but it was a win for Dave. The ground is not this often in his favour though, and there was no capital for his victory – the apology for events around the Hillsborough files and the actions of Yorkshire Police that day in 1989 quickly overshadowed petty partisan squabbles.
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