PMQs: Pathetic Miliband fails to hit home even on Europe

Ed Miliband couldn't score a decisive victory even amid Cameron's problems over Europe.

Cameron takes to the despatch box for PMQs 50th anniversary.
Harry Cole
On 26 October 2011 11:23

Humiliated abroad by the French, of all people, and humiliated at home by his own team rebelling, this correspondent would not have wanted to be in the Prime Minister’s shoes as he stood up for his weekly parliamentary duel.

Stopping in London on his way back to witness the Eurozone bonfire at first hand, Dave’s mind was clearly elsewhere.

Having promised to bring back powers from Brussels when faced with his backbench revolt on Monday, he seemed strangely surprised by Ed Miliband’s blindingly obvious question: Which powers and when?

It was a perfectly reasonable thing to ask but the PM was unable, or unwilling, to answer.

If he doesn’t want Europe to become a recurring issue in his premiership and if he wants to put off more rebellions, he must flesh out his vague promise with real meat as soon as he can.

Miliband smelt blood and then went for the splits at the top of the government, especially Nick Clegg’s pooh pooh-ing of the repatriation plan yesterday.

It was a fair line of attack and it’s a serious issue for the government - the Tories and Liberal Democrats are never going to agree on the subject, and it could yet be the point of contention that ultimately leads to the Coalition’s demise.

Cameron did have something up his sleeve though: Miliband’s sound bite from Sunday morning in which he refused to rule out joining the Euro. That is starting to look like his biggest tactical mistake yet in the current round of Europe-focused wrangling.

As the leader of a party that, had it got its way under Tony Blair, would have taken us into the Euro he is already deeply distrusted on the subject by the country. So Cameron served up a disturbing flash of reality -- Ed Miliband would still join the Euro; a nail in his electoral coffin.

It is worth noting that the Treasury under Labour were still running a Euro implementation unit right up until May 2010. Their current policy is as much of a mess as it has been for years.

Much noise is made about Gordon Brown and Ed Balls saving us from the Euro. And credit where credit is due.  It is true that it was on their watch that the decision was made not to join, and it will be the one good footnote in history that the Brown government will be remembered for.

But neither should it be forgotten that it was the strong anti-European mood that was created by the then Conservative opposition that made it completely impossible for Blair to take us into the euro under his premiership.

Overall, given that Cameron just faced the biggest rebellion in Tory history, it wasn’t as bad an outing as it could have been.

But, as so often, that is because of the weakness, stupidity, and off the wall ideology of his opponent.

After Monday, Cameron is weak and neutered on this subject. His backbenchers know this but then they also know the alternative is far, far worse.

Harry Cole is the UK Political Editor for The Commentator. He tweets at @MrHarryCole and is the News Editor for Guido Fawkes, Britain's leading Westminster politics news site

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