PMQs: Bits start to fall off Cameron’s wagon

After last week’s Miliband success at Prime Minister’s Questions, this time we started off with Ed Miliband in softly softly mode. He asked about Libya and the service chiefs’ concern about an extended campaign. Displaying a becoming measure of gravitas, he also asked whether the defence review should be revisited in the light of the “Arab Spring” which William Hague has described as more important than 9-11. That’s a good question given that the review didn’t mention Libya, Tunisia or Egypt.

David Cameron said he has been assured by the military grand fromage that we could keep the campaign going as long as it takes. The weekly sittings of the National Security Council should maintain suficient flexibility of resources, he said. Then we got the first smidgeon of a political point, when Cameron heavily mentioned the absence of a defence review during the ten years up to 2010.

Thinking on his feet, Miliband pounced on an apparently unadvertised review of the review. He then whacked in a tactical whanger, asking Cameron to reconsider whether it was wise to allegedly say “You do the fighting, I’ll do the talking” to service chiefs. Cameron refused to back down on that one, emphasising that it was important to be careful with words during such situations.

Later, normal pyrotechnics were resumed. Miliband asked about plans to discard the DNA of those arrested but not charged with rape. Cameron took some online briefing from the Home Secretary while this question was asked. Miliband pointed this out and there were ribald noises from the Labour side.

It’s hard not to conclude that bits are starting to fall off the Cameron wagon. He was obviously on the back foot with this DNA question. He tried to get out of it by saying that “in this government we actually talk to each other”. Then he, bizarrely, tried to bring in something about Ed Balls and VAT. As they say in the Twittersphere: “WTF?” As they say from the Speaker’s chair: “Let us focus on an answer to the question, or we will move on to the next question”.

Off the cuff, Miliband then came up with a beaut. The following remark really appears to sum up the first 13 months of Cameron’s Prime Ministership – quite brilliantly and succintly:

Let me give this lesson to the Prime Minister: it would be better to talk to his colleagues before they put forward a policy, not after.

After the success, last week, of his quoting of Mcamillan Cancer Support, Miliband used a quote from Rape Crisis to support his case.

Belatedly (presumably after hasty socco voce discussions with Theresa May, Cameron retorted that the police can apply to keep the DNA profile of those arrested but not charged. He then launched into a sermon about coming to the Commons with half-baked information, finishing with a particularly Flashmanesque flourish which had nothing to do with the matter at hand.

The House got quite excited about all this, eliciting this witty response from Mister Speaker:

The House needs to simmer down and take whatever tablets are necessary

Other snippets were:

  • In answer to Angie Bray (Con) David Cameron said we would not contribute to the latest Greek bail-out, except in our capacity as a senior member of the IMF board.
  • John Thurso (LibDem) asked about the abrupt decision to close the pasport office in Wick, necessitating a 300 mile round trip for a six year old boy. Cameron said he would look into this, suggesting that the passport office should be using “all sorts of ways… in the modern age” to avoid people travelling.
  • Greg Mulholland (LibDem) asked about providing wheelchairs to transform young people’s lives and the role of “Whizzkidz ambassadors”.
  • Iain Stewart (Con) asked about homophobia in sport. Cameron replied highlighting those sportsmen and women who have come out, many of whom will be attending a party hosted by the PM tonight.
  • Andrew George (LibDem) advocated helping out the Greeks by giving them back the Elgin Marbles. Then we got a Speaker/PM double act “You set them up, I’ll knock them down” routine:

    Mr Speaker: Order. I want to hear the Prime Minister’s views on marbles.
    The Prime Minister: The short answer is that we are not going to lose them.

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9 Comments

  • Second week in a row Milliband has had the better….

    Cameron is, in my opinion, looking more and more pathetic with his bitchy, off subject retorts. It’s funny that he has followed Brown in looking less like a Prime Minister the longer he holds the office. I’m no Clegg fan but his handling of DPMQ’s (whilst he still avoids giving answers too often for my liking) is at least generally in keeping with his office……

    As for the Armed Forces issues. He has lost his senior officers remarkably quickly, and really needs to do some listening to enable them to do the fighting. He wont miss a photo op with the forces whenever it suits, politicians never do…

    Libya was and is a mistake, we are overstretched and need to concentrate on the primary mission.

  • Paul Walter Paul walter 23rd Jun '11 - 7:01am

    Dan – agreed

  • @Dan
    Just to clarify the fact that I believe Milliband had the best of the session does not mean I agree with him. My personal view has always been that those falsely accused of rape have too few protections as it is. If there is not enough evidence to charge someone then the DNA should be destroyed. If they become a suspect again take another swab….

    The fact Cameron came back with Police having an option to retain should tell you both main parties are fairly close on this…..

    It was the armed forces issues he lost it on for me. When in opposition he made great fuss about comments from senior personnel, but now he is PM they should shut up and fight ?

    We have the finest armed forces in the world and when those that lead them are both ignored and insulted it is a disgrace. It is fine to disagree with them but do not put them down as Cameron tried to. Thousands of them daily risk much more than looking a plonker at the dispatch box once a week, they have no specific representative in parliament and rely on those at the top getting the message across to ministers.

    @Andrew Tennant
    Flashman is witty in the books which like many I enjoyed. He is also an arrogant selfish bully who will do anything for self preservation. Just like the character Alan B’stard made me laugh but I wouldn’t ever support a politician who was like him…

  • @Dan Falchikov

    Getting distracted over the DNA issue, which only applies to a tiny number of arrests, is a mistake given the wrecking of Clarke’s justice plans by the Right, fully endorsed by the PM. I’d have thought Lib Dems would be more concerned by what the PM is doing to legal reform, than to an opposition politician taking the opportunity to expose Cameron’s lack of grasp of detail.

    The time for accusing Labour of a lack of concern for legal rights is over when your own party is not standing up to the wilful destruction of the legal aid system and the clamour for stricter sentencing, and thus expanding prison populations.

  • @Andrew Tennant
    If you’re being serious, then I’m more than a bit concerned about you:

    From Wikipedia:

    “In Hughes’ book, Flashman is the notorious bully of Rugby School who persecutes Tom Brown, and who is finally expelled for drunkenness. Twentieth century author George MacDonald Fraser had the idea of writing Flashman’s memoirs, in which the school bully would be identified with an “illustrious Victorian soldier”: experiencing many 19th century wars and adventures and rising to high rank in the British Army, acclaimed as a great soldier, while remaining by his unapologetic self-description “a scoundrel, a liar, a cheat, a thief, a coward—and oh yes, a toady.” Fraser’s Flashman is an antihero who runs from danger or hides cowering in fear, betrays or abandons acquaintances at the slightest incentive, bullies and beats servants with gusto, beds every available woman, carries off any loot he can grab, gambles and boozes enthusiastically, and yet, through a combination of luck and cunning, usually ends each volume acclaimed as a hero.”

  • @Steve: “a scoundrel, a liar, a cheat, a thief, a coward—and oh yes, a toady.” Fraser’s Flashman is an antihero who runs from danger or hides cowering in fear, betrays or abandons acquaintances at the slightest incentive, bullies and beats servants with gusto, beds every available woman, carries off any loot he can grab, gambles and boozes enthusiastically, and yet, through a combination of luck and cunning, usually ends each volume acclaimed as a hero”

    Just the sort of fellow we need as Prime Minister

  • You can watch Lib Dem Andrew George MP’s question to Cameron about the Elgin Marbles here: to see who is losing their Marbles!!

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