There was a plethora of possible topics for Ed Miliband to raise at Prime Minister’s Questions today – Libya, the economy, phone hacking etc. In the event he chose two very strong issues.
First, he raised the subject of the postponement of the elections for police commissioners. This will cost £25 million, said Cameron. Ed Miliband said this is the “wrong priority for the country”, saying that £100 million plus is being “wasted” on elected politicians, which could pay for 2,000 extra police officers.
This was a very strong point, but sadly, as so often is the case, this was spoilt by reference to Labour’s record. As Cameron retorted, the last Labour government promised directly elected representatives to give people a say over policing.
Secondly, Ed Miliband picked on the NHS and scored a bit of a slam dunk. He asked Cameron to explain why waiting times for operations have gone up by 60%. David Cameron responded by saying that waiting times for outpatients have gone down. So, in other words, if you need a heart operation you have to wait longer. But that’s OK, because if you’ve stubbed your toe you’ll be sorted out in double quick time. It was a near-cretinous answer from Cameron.
It’s getting to the stage when the riot police need to be called into the House of Commons Chamber whenever Nadine Dorries (Con) gets up to speak. The Speaker had to intervene twice in her exchange with the PM. She complained about the influence of the LibDems and asked Cameron to tell Nick Clegg who’s boss. Cameron tried to answer this: “I know the honourable lady is extremely frustrated…” – he started. Amidst much roaring he said “I’ll start again”. Then, as the roars continued, he said “I’m going to have to give up on this one”.
Mark Reckless (Con) also raised a “LibDems have too much influence” question later. There is a definite hard core of Tory MPs who just don’t like what’s happening in the coalition.
Sir Alan Beith (LibDem) (who, in contrast, to Nadine Dorries was heard in complete silence) asked the PM to ensure that the banks will never again be bailed out because they are too big to fail. Cameron more or less agreed.
Simon Wright (LibDem) asked about the inequity of ending the 50% top tax rate. Interestingly, Cameron answered by enthusiastically praising a couple of the coalition government’s tax reforms which have helped the less well off, both advocated by the LibDems.
Paul Walter blogs at Liberal Burblings