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 Prime Minister of what he said before the election when he was asked why he wanted to be Prime Minister? He paused, and with characteristic humility said:

“Because I think I’d be good at it.”

Where did it all go wrong?

In response, Cameron leans heavily on his lists of statistics, going red and (this week) the word “pathetic”.

It seems that Cameron may have given up trying to lead his party and, instead, is appealing to the leader of the opposition to help him deliver the government’s programme. This seemed to be the message when he said:

If we want to see House of Lords reform, all those who support House of Lords reform need not only to vote for House of Lords reform but to support the means to bring that reform about.

In other words, ‘I’m never going to get my lot to vote for it enough to carry it, so please help us to get it through.’

Emily Thornbury (Lab) asked whether the Chancellor should apologise to Ed Balls for comments about the Barclays farrago. Fortunately, David Cameron had a prepared answer. He said that Osborne had said that Balls had questions to answer. Cameron helpfully suggested what some of those questions are:

Who designed the regulatory system that failed? Who was City Minister when Northern Rock was selling 110% mortgages? Who advised the Chancellor and the Prime Minister that there was no more boom and bust? Who helped create the biggest boom and the biggest bust and who has never apologised for his dreadful record in office?

To every one of those questions, the answer was chanted in unison by Conservative backbenchers:

Balls! Balls! Balls! Balls!

– Which, thank goodness, gives me a great excuse for my headline.

Lulu Shout of the week award

Last week, Esther McVey made a very good job of speaking very loudly immediately after the Milicam debate. This week she was well and truly out done by Anne Marie Morris (Con) who really shouted her question. It was quite extraordinary. The last sentence was positively shrieked. (Her question was about the university technical college initiative.) In actual fact, it is often the members who speak quietly who get the house to shut up and listen.

Lib Dem questions

Sir Bob Russell wins the award for standyupppy-sittydowny of the week, as he had to stand up and sit down innumerable times before he was called. Such are the indignities inflicted on a sexagenarian by House of Commons procedure. Sir Bob asked:

On the Prime Minister’s watch, the Army will reduce to its smallest size since 1750 and will be half the size it was at the time of the Falklands war. Does he accept that history is not kind to Prime Ministers who are perceived to have left our country without a strong defence capability?

Martin Horwood asked the Prime Minister to comment on the stand-off between the new Egyptian President and the country’s military.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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6 Comments

  • Richard Dean 12th Jul '12 - 11:53am

    I thought Ed Miliband did badly this week. His questions are getting repetitive and boring – they hardly ever contain much fact, and the PM’s statistics did give him a lot of apparent credibility this time. The Red joke backfired on Ed. Balls was and is a catastrophe – a nice man perhaps but without the strength of character needed to govern an economy.

  • Malcolm Todd 12th Jul '12 - 12:42pm

    Funny, I feel pretty much the opposite about Balls. My skin crawls whenever I see or hear him; and I wouldn’t trust him an inch. But I suspect he’s rather good at his job.

  • Really , the Conservatives are doing all of Miliband’s work for him and the truth about Labour is they’re well drilled and disciplined. Unlike the Conservatives the factional infighting amongst the various wings were mostly resolved two decades ago. They no longer fracture under pressure. Cameron can’t control his party because no one in the conservative leadership has ever got to grips with the right of the organisation. Cl egg, and I’m not a huge fan, is able to deliver his party under extreme pressure and the question is not whether he can continue to do so, but whether or not he should. In truth Cameron is a weak leader of a very fractured Party.
    As for Balls, I don’t like him, but he’s I suspect he’s good at what he does.

  • Andrew Tennant 12th Jul '12 - 6:03pm

    Only amongst the spin merchants of the Labour party are facts to be abused, ridiculed and avoided.

    I was left wondering this week whether Ed had any thoughts of substance at all.

  • Folk are starting to sound a little desperate here; in case you haven’t noticed the latest opinion polls, Ed da Balls have drummed up a significant lead and we are walking the green line.

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