PMQs: A two horse(meat) race to an EU referendum

Cameron eased past Miliband on the Euro question - but Ed did have a decent point or two

by on 16 January 2013 12:38

Just two days before the Prime Minister is due to deliver his ‘big speech’ on Europe, Prime Minister’s Questions was bound to hinge on the European question.

Ed Miliband struck early, levying the charge at Cameron that the Tories ‘bang on’ about Europe too much, especially given the Prime Minister’s admission of the fact – in those very words - not so long ago.

Of course, that was in opposition, and the nature of the international economy has forced the issue once again.  But Cameron’s middle of the road, ‘in or less in’ approach to the European question, is doubtless causing some cognitive dissonance within the minds of the general public. It’s also a pretty hard sell as far as the rest of the world is concerned.

His newest catchphrase, oft-repeated, is that an ‘In/Out referendum’ in a ‘false choice’. The PM asked Ed Miliband to ‘give up the feeble jokes’ on the subject. True to his recent form of channeling Conservative figures (see Disraeli), Miliband this time utilised the words of Michael Heseltine, as if the Tory benches and the PM himself would for some reason balk and capitulate. Dave had the structure and the substance here, even though we would likely disagree with the end goal.

“He’s lost control of his party!” hollered Ed. “His problems are just beginning!” Probably the truest word Ed has uttered in the chamber in a long time. But for a man who scarcely has control over his own party’s position on the subject, it was a tall order for Ed to offer up the idea the Labour has the better answers.

But Ed is right about one more thing. If Cameron speaks to the country (from outside of the country) tomorrow, stating that there should be a referendum in five years, then he creates no decisive position from the government, on behalf of the people. This will indeed hang like a Damoclean sword over the necks of British businesses for the next 60 months. It’s not good enough, Dave.

Of course, the story that horsemeat has been found in Tesco value beef burgers was raised, with Dave assuring us that the Food Standards Agency is investigating. The prevailing view in The Commentator office is that if you’re buying Tesco value burgers, you’ve got more problems than a bit of Shergar between your baps.

On a completely unrelated note, the libertarian firebrand Douglas Carswell pressed Cameron on his commitment to open primary candidate selections, a question that we asked over a year ago.

Cameron, despite the fact that the Conservative Party has inched away from the process, confirmed that he is committed to them. Good news. Now let’s see some good action, as the Tory selection committees continue to appoint 2015 candidates. Some local associations are taking Dave’s commitment seriously.

And effectively, that was that. Besides Ed’s baiting of Cameron early on, it was a pretty dry and parochial episode of PMQs. Ed’s jokes flopped, and Cameron came away looking less angry and more measured than last week. 2-0 to Dave. No question.

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