Category Archives: PMQs

Clegg’s letter to Burnham: “you may have inadvertently misled” Commons on Labour’s NHS privatisation record

clegg on leveson 2Nick Clegg fielded Prime Minister’s Questions today, during which he noted that Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham is “the only man in England who has ever privatised an NHS hospital”. Mr Burham complained that Nick had misled the House of Commons over the issue of Hichingbrooke Hospital, accusing him of “sheer inaccuracy”. The Lib Dem leader lost no time in responding:

Dear Andy,

I see that you raised a Point of Order in the House of Commons and that you accused me of “sheer inaccuracy”. I am always happy to confirm the accuracy of what I have said.

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PMQs: Nick Clegg comes back from Cornwall

clegg on leveson 2I stopped doing PMQ write-ups some time ago. They were getting so repetitive and mind-numbingly pointless that I was losing the will to live.

Today’s exchange between Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman was typical of the genre. Harriet Harman made some very good prepared points, and Nick Clegg blasted away on Labour’s record and mentioned some good bits from this government’s record. There was a lot huing and crying and then everyone went to lunch.

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“This is not a snub. I thought it would be a nice change to get out of the Westminster bubble”: Clegg on his Autumn Statement absence

clegg on levesonNick Clegg has taken my advice.*

Back in July, I offered the Lib Dem leader five unsolicited pieces of advice. Most he’s ridden roughshod over: Vince Cable wasn’t appointed the party’s shadow chancellor for the next election, Jo Swinson wasn’t promoted to the cabinet, and (as far as I know) Nick continues to rule out options other than a full coalition in the event of a hung parliament.

But item number 4 was this:

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How Nick Clegg should deal with Tory Eurosceptics at PMQs today

Caron’s already given you the 70 minute warning that Nick Clegg is standing in for David Cameron at PMQs today at 12 noon. The Mail’s Matt Chorley has a suggestion for his best approach to the head-banging wing of the Tory party:

The Lib Dem press office took him at his word:

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PMQs: The Chief Whip’s brain is missing*

*Conservative Chief Whip, that is.

Does Andrew Mitchell have some embarrassing photos of David Cameron? Or is there some disaster coming up, known only to the Prime Minister, for which he is conserving the Chief Whip for dumping overboard at an expedient moment as “cover”?

There has to be some reason that the PM preserves in post a man responsible for one of the longest public aftermaths ever for an intemperate outburst.

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PMQs: Balls! Balls! Balls! Balls!

By golly by gosh, I think Ed Miliband has finally got in the swing of this Prime Minister’s Questions thing. While Cameron reeled from his Tuesday night beating by a right Jesse, the leader of the opposition appeared poised, relaxed and skilful. He’s learnt the knack of brevity and humour, as his first question demonstrated:

At this last Question Time before the recess, may I remind the

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PMQs: My honourable friend makes an important point

I think David Cameron broke his own record this week:

(To Nicolas Soames) My right honourable Friend makes an important point.

(To Julian Brazier) My honourable Friend makes two very important points.

(To Duncan Hames) My honourable Friend raises an important point.

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PMQs: Coalition comrades and Kettering cabinets

David Cameron rather wiped the floor with Ed Miliband yesterday. He did so with the very simple device of producing a letter from Sir Alex Allan, regarding the Hunt BSkyB imbroglio, which stated:

The fact that there is an on-going judicial inquiry probing and taking evidence under oath means that I do not believe I could usefully add to the facts in this case.

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PMQs: Wouldn’t you also crack under this sort of pressure?

Here are some quotes from Ed Balls MP from past Prime Minister’s Questions:

No No No No No No No No No No

and

Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

and

Down Down Down Down Down Down Down Down Down

and

Up Up Up Up Up Up Up Up Up Up

All this mono-syllabic heckling has gone on amidst a variety of facial squirms and gurns and even the exhibition of a wide portfolio of hand signals which have had puzzled observers searching umpiring manuals. This …

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DPMQs: De facto but not de jure Fruit Ninja

MPs are always queuing up in droves to ask a question of the Deputy Prime Minister. He is what the Speaker describes as “box office”.

The subjects at this monthly session can, however, be a bit repetitive. House of Lords reform, electoral registration and lobbying all tend to pop up every time.

Helen Grant (Con) was anxious to get the Royal Sucession changes on the statute books pdq. But Nick Clegg reassured her that, should the Duchess of Cambridge undergo successful confinement resulting in a female happy event, …

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PMQs: Miliband hits barn door – twice

Britain back in recession, embarrassing emails about government links to Murdoch. These are gifts to the opposition. The most open of open goals at this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

I liked Miliband’s opening question:

Today we had the catastrophic news that Britain is back in recession. I am sure that the Prime Minister has spent the past 24 hours thinking of an excuse as to why it is nothing to do with him, so what is his excuse

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PMQs: It’s déjà vu all over again

Andrew Selous MP (Conservative) got up at Prime Minister’s Questions this week and said this:

What does he think about Ken Livingstone, who said that: “I get loads of money, all from different sources, and I give it to an accountant and they manage it”? Is that modern socialism for you?

A superb question. But one could be forgiven for being reminded of Yogi Berra’s remark:

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PMQs: Your boys took a hell of a beating

I’m looking forward to the comments this week.

We saw a newly confident Nick Clegg at Prime Minister’s Questions today.

I’ve written before that Nick’s early Dispatch Box appearances were a bit like bear bating. He stood there, red-faced and growling as Labour MPs jabbed at him from all angles.

But, today, we saw an assured and relaxed Nick Clegg who was convincingly combatative. Most impressively, he discharged the session with barely a single reference to a piece of paper. Not for him the “chained to my indexed folder” look of David Cameron. In short, Nick Clegg was Prime Ministerial. “Best ever” was …

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PMQs: Lest we forget

A different Prime Minister’s Questions review this week. Often, the Prime Minister prefaces his first answer with a tribute to fallen service personnel. I have mentioned these tributes a few times in the course of these write-ups over the last (nearly) two years.

It seems appropriate to devote the whole of this week’s review solely to those who have died fighting for us, as we pass the milestone of 400 troops killed in Afghanistan with a particularly bloody incident.

Whatever our views of the right or the wrongs of our involvements overseas, I think most people agree that our service personnel do …

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PMQs: Beccles, Bungay, swivel-eyes and the hysterically happy DUP

Did you know that the happiest people are in Northern Ireland? Laugh-a-minute DUP MP Nigel Dodds told us so at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday. The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson, on his feet following this announcement, bore something of a burden. Not known for his cheery disposition, a colleague twice entreated him to “Smile Jeffrey”.

High pantomime was the order of the day. Dear Gerry Kaufman seems to think that longevity in the House should be matched by longevity of questioning. Well into his sixth paragraph, it seemed, the Speaker gave him fierce winding up signals and commented: “The right hon. Gentleman has …

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PMQs: Cancel that firing squad!

We started yesterday with warm congraulations to Her Majesty on attaining the sixtieth anniversary of her accession to the throne.

For the second week running at Prime Minister’s Questions, Ed Miliband’s inquiries were on health reform. He had one of his most successful sessions so far, during which we found out that David Cameron doesn’t want Andrew Lansley to be taken out and shot.

Miliband was on excellent form and, by golly by gosh, at one point he almost ascended to the John Smith “hotels fall into the sea” level of stinging wit, with this passage:

Isn’t this interesting? The Prime Minister says

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PMQs: Miliband goes all Thatcher

Full marks to Ed Miliband. He had a good Prime Minister’s Questions this week.

One of the reasons he did so well is that he took a leaf out of Margaret Thatcher’s book. He lowered the tone of his voice. Gone was the shrill shouting of recent weeks. Instead we had a calm, firm low tone. And he slowed down his delivery, making it very de-li-ber-ate. As a result he sounded a lot more effective.

First on executive pay, and then on the NHS, Miliband did well against the PM. For me, his line of the week was this one on top …

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PMQs: The importance of Doncaster, almost to the exclusion of everything else

At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, David Cameron and Ed Miliband first clashed on the subject of economic growth (or, indeed, contraction). That entanglement was, more or less, a score draw. But Ed Miliband was much stronger during a later exchange on the NHS reform bill, culminating with this belter:

I shall tell the Prime Minister what is happening in the NHS: waiting lists up, morale down. What does the majority-Conservative Select Committee on Health say about his reorganisation? It says that it will be a “disruption and distraction that hinders the ability of organisations to” release savings.

Let us be frank: this

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PMQs: Miliband hoist by his Balls’ petard

Let’s start with what Ed Balls, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor said in the Guardian on January 14th:

My starting point is, I am afraid, we are going to have keep all these cuts. There is a big squeeze happening on budgets across the piece. The squeeze on defence spending, for instance, is £15bn by 2015. We are going to have to start from that being the baseline. At this stage, we can make no commitments to reverse any of that, on spending or on tax. So I am being absolutely clear about that.

So, it was something of a surprise when Ed …

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PMQs: Opposition leader asks: “Can I agree with the Prime Minister”?

2012’s first Prime Minister’s Questions started with a bit of a score draw about rail fares. It got rather heated as Ed Miliband said the government had allowed fares to go up by 11%. He said:

The last Labour government saw that the train companies were taking advantage of consumers…we took away that power from them

David Cameron retorted that:

The power (to increase fares well above inflation) was given to them to do that by the last Labour government.

Channel 4 News FactCheck, as usual,has an excellent analysis of this spat, concluding that they couldn’t give either men a “Fact” or “Fiction” …

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PMQs: Miliband 1 Barn Door 1

It was the last pre-Christmas Prime Minister’s Questions today and we saw the return of Nick Clegg loyally sitting at the PM’s right-hand side.

Ed Miliband started on the economy, and the news that unemployment is up again. He quoted David Cameron’s words when he came to office, saying that jobs would be “uppermost”. “What’s gone wrong?” asked the opposition leader.

Cameron’s main thrust during the 2010 election campaign was that new private sector jobs should lead the economic recovery and more than replace lost public sector jobs. Miliband did a good job of exposing that this bright idea has allegedly failed. …

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PMQs: Penguin in the menage à trois

The first big subject at Prime Minister’s Questions this week was Europe. Tory MP Andrew Rosindell asked if David Cameron would show “bulldog spirit” at the forthcoming summit. Later, similar points came from various Tory Eurosceptic MPs, including the Father of the House, Sir Peter Tapsell. He is always heard with great respect, despite his long-winded, rather pompous and, in this case, halting mini-speeches which have barely inquisitive constructions stuck on the end of them.

Ed Miliband started on Europe as well, asking if Cameron would fulfil his promise that treaty change might give the opportunity to “repatriate powers”. The Prime …

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Ed Miliband’s wonky PMQs’ maths

Paul Walter’s LibDemVoice review of yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions mentioned the Ed Miliband soundbite which has been picked up by much of the media… but so far without the disbelief it’s due. Here’s what the Labour leader said:

The difference is that, unlike the Prime Minister, I am not going to demonise the dinner lady, the cleaner or the nurse, people who earn in a week what the Chancellor pays for his annual skiing holiday.

A quick reminder for those who don’t live in the Westminster bubble that, last January, it was revealed (by which I mean I read it

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PMQs: Jo Swinson on the role of women in Aghanistan

Liberal Democrat questions first this week:

Jo Swinson asked:

Ten years on from the military intervention, more than 3 million girls in Afghanistan are now in school. With the Bonn conference on Monday, will the Prime Minister send a clear message that the rights of those girls should not be traded away in a false choice between women’s rights and security? The evidence shows that women’s involvement in post-conflict resolution is essential for stability.

The Prime Minister agreed:

All those of us who have been to Afghanistan and met women MPs and other leaders in that country who want to stand up for women’s

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PMQs: Ding-dong over youth unemployment

The focus of the Cameron v Miliband this week exchange was the new figure of one million unemployed young people. It started with a battle between the government’s Work Programme versus Labour’s Future Jobs Fund. Miliband blamed the Work Programme for increasing Youth Unemployment:

…in June, when the Work programme was introduced, 85,000 young people had been unemployed for more than six months; now, there are 133,000—a massive increase since he introduced the Work programme.

But Cameron countered with figures saying that:

The Work programme is helping 50% more people than the future jobs fund: it will help 120,000 young people this year,

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PMQs: Miliband misses a golden opportunity

LibDem Julian Huppert started Prime Minister’s Questions with a zinger today. He said that jobs and growth depend on consumer confidence, and asked if, therefore, the PM thinks that telling 25 million people that they have no job security and could be fired tomorrow will help consumer confidence (this refers to the proposal from Tory businessman Adrian Beecroft). David Cameron had no answer but instead, as always, threw his briefing notes at the questioner (metaphorically speaking).

I should also mention, en passant, that Julian asked for suggestions for his first question via Twitter. Good man.

After the MiliCam exchange, I was …

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PMQs: Tim Farron asks “Question of the week” – Ed Balls signals four runs

In my ever-earnest toil to prepare this review, this week I have been reviewing web sites which explain cricket umpire signals. I also checked the umpire signals for netball, American football and baseball.

There is no doubt about it. Ed Balls was signalling a four at Prime Ministers’ Questions. His hand was a bit lower than normal, but it would pass to signal a boundary at Morley Cricket Club.

For a change, I’m going to stand this review on its head this week and concentrate on questions from backbenchers, starting with Liberal Democrats.

Question of the week came from Tim Farron:

The world population

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PMQs: Nadine Dorries asks question. No-one dies.

Today was the fiftieth anniversary of Prime Minister’s Questions. And it was a fairly typical session. As always, it was in two parts.

Part one: Lots of jeering, cheering, knockabout, winding-up and prepared lines exchanged between the PM and opposition leader.

Part Two: Generally hum-drum but important questions from various back-benchers, largely heard in earnest silence.

The bit that most people will see will be the short bit on the telly, which will be a few seconds of ya-boo politics. In itself, that is a good piece of democracy in that it highlights the weaknesses of the government and the opposition. The longer …

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PMQs: You can’t gesticulate your way out of a Balls-up

He still looks like a clever sixth former to me, but it is fair to say that Ed Miliband has cracked Prime Minister’s Questions. His performance this week was excellent.

“Just a bit late” was David Cameron’s description of Miliband’s raising of the Fox affair. It is easy to understand why Miliband did not raise the subject last week. Labour played a canny game with Dr Fox. They did not call for his resignation and at the last PMQs, Miliband did not ask directly about the issue. This allowed Dr Fox to swing in the media wind, without obvious Labour encouragement. …

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PMQs: Ed Miliband just about hits the barn door

From memory, this was the first time the Cameron/Miliband exchange centred wholly on the economy.

There was plenty of ammo for Miliband to fire at Cameron. Unemployment up to its highest for 15 years. Women’s unemployment at its highest since 1988. Youth unemployment at its highest since 1992. He started with a quote from David Cameron himself saying that “Unemployment will fall this year, next year and the year after”. (Bit of daft hostage to fortune that was.)

Cameron was well armed with all the programmes the government is starting: Welfare to Work programme, Welfare reform, Apprenticeships etc etc. And we have …

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