PMQs: Vince tackles Harriet on housing

It says something about the repellant oiliness of Cameron and the monolithic self-righteousness of Gordon Brown that I am pleased to see Harriet Harman and William Hague at the ballot box today. Mind you, for technical reasons, I am listening from the next room.

Hague ranges over the recession’s effects on small businesses and the need to tackle unemployment – trying to cut Vince’s ground out from under him? Good luck with that. Harman: Brown is “Superman” to Cameron’s “Joker”. The hubris of these people is unbelievable. I sometimes wonder why the entire Liberal Democrat contingent doesn’t get up and moon the house in protest. Now that would be a stunt. Ooh, she gets in a good hit about Hague’s website though – allegedly it still says he is the Leader of the Conservative Party.

Vince is up and he takes on housing. Essentially, housing associations are having difficulty building, repossessions are up and banks are not lending – what is the government proposing to do about it? He refers to the rate of building being the lowest since 1924 and is heckled – “Do you remember then?” Takes it on the chin: “Honourable members should remember because they’re in danger of repeating that history.” Day saved.

Harman talks about current investment in new housing projects and the new rules on repossessions, but this is not good enough for Cable, who demands whether the minister is aware that this investment simply isn’t happening? The housing associations are in too much trouble to build at the rate required. The housing repossession rules are reaching less than 1 in 10 of cases of arrears. Harman refers to the bank bail-out and the help government is providing to get the banks lending again, and Vince points out that this makes no difference to the housing associations who are receiving no help.

For some reason his description of the government as “complacent” gets one of the biggest howls of his questions from the foaming Labour benches. Very odd, in the grand scheme of things – Vince has essentially been calling the government complacent on all matters economic for the last ten years, and is gradually being proved right on each and every one of them – when will they learn?

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This entry was posted in News and PMQs.


  • Alix Mortimer 17th Dec '08 - 12:45pm

    Ha, you say that! I had two computers, one of which wouldn’t play videos AND had a dodgy internet connection, and the other of which wouldn’t bring up the LDV posting screen.

    I agree they were of the solid as opposed to fiery persuasion – I think this is to some extent just a function of having only two questions. There’s no room in there for rhetorical flourish as you’re just inviting a fobbing off. I’m always struck by the way the PM has plainly never prepared for Lib Dem questions particularly carefully. He knows he just has to gabble the same thing twice and that’ll do – something he can’t do six times. So our questions have to be detail-based if they’re to be any use at all.

  • Alix Mortimer 17th Dec '08 - 12:47pm

    Hehehe! It’s got the old party logo as well. Probably an old stub site. Very untidy on the part of CCHQ though.

  • Elizabeth Patterson 17th Dec '08 - 5:10pm

    I thought it was quite amusing in a pitiful way.
    Harman seemed to be electioneering in that she didn’t answer any opposition leaders’ questions, but just reeled off Labstats in a confrontational way.
    She also made the sad female mistake (and I say this as a 50’s feminist) of letting her voice pitch rise to a hectoring level in her confrontation with Hague. Thatcher did this in her early years but later learned more poise and was much more effective.
    Still, she has one thing in common with Thatcher…. she doesn’t do humour.

    Her answers to her own side were equally revealing; there was an unusual number of planted questions on “women’s issues” and she used them to announce various things on this front. Terrible patronising stuff.

    I thought Vince actually showed a little passion about the housing issue; he is usually intellectually immaculate but has a disciplined calmness which sometimes comes over as academic style laid-backness.

    But we shouldn’t expect to be entertained by PMQs It isn’t supposed to be a Christmas pantomime…..really.

  • Clegg's Candid Fan 17th Dec '08 - 5:23pm

    “Her answers to her own side were equally revealing; there was an unusual number of planted questions on “women’s issues” and she used them to announce various things on this front. Terrible patronising stuff.”

    It’s not really that surprising, considering she is Minister for Women and Equality.

  • David Morton 18th Dec '08 - 6:52am

    Harman’s statement that the government would legislate to force power companies to pass on failing oil prices is the strongest i have heard a cabinet minister make and goes a tad further than the increasingly belligerent Ed Milliband.

    She also defended the Human Rights Act in response to a planted Labour Queston while the golum like jack Straw was in screen shot who had of course given that Mail please speech on it a few weeks ago.

    I may be wrong but did she also for the first time confirm that the flexible working for parents WOULD be being introduced from next april after mandelson had thought out loud that a recession may not be the best time to do it.

    Oh and she’d got the script writer to come up with some actual emotion and elegy over the latest iraq casulty rather than the usual formal reading of the names.

    All in all i though she did rather well.

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