PMQs: Flashman can’t resist putting the Clegg-shined boot in

Individual cases of unfortunate citizens are often brought up at Prime Minister’s Questions. A very powerful example of this was the subject of the first question today from John Mann (Labour). He cited the case of Gladys Hunt, whose care home fees have recently gone up by the staggering amount of £400 a week. Cameron replied that an extra £2 billion is going into adult care and that he’ll look into Mrs Hunt’s case.

Unusually, a Conservative MP raised the next question about a constituent in dire straits. This was Millie d’Cruz, who suffers from metachromatic leukodystrophy, and whose family has to raise £200,000 for her treatment in the Netherlands (well, he said “Holland” but I bet he meant the Netherlands. I’ve recently been lectured on the difference by a Dutchman). Cameron again promised to “look into” the case and waffled about advances in medicine.

Then came Ed Miliband with a killer opener: “inflation is rising, growth has stalled and an extra 66,000 young people are out of work. Can the Prime Minister tell us whether he thinks his strategy is working?” Cameron dished out his spiel about no longer being with the “PIGS” and how youth unemployment went up while Labour were in power.

But we’re the only major economy in Europe where “growth went into reverse” at the end of 2010, said Miliband. He quoted Cameron’s former chief economist saying the government is wrong to be scrapping EMAs and the future jobs fund, and quoted Cameron himself saying a future jobs fund example scheme “inspired” him.

Cameron swopped a competing quote from this former chief economist wallah and then produced a fascinating statistic. Of 279,000 people taking part in Labour’s flexible new deal, only 3,800 got a long term job. Cameron said this shows “what has been going wrong”.

Miliband then built up an impressive edifice: 250,000 fewer job opportunities than under Labour, betraying a generation of young people – trebling tuition fees, abolishing EMA and abolishing the future jobs fund. He threw in a waspish remark to the effect that Cameron’s idea of social mobility is “auctioning a few City internships at the Conservative party ball”. Oh! Meow!

Cameron said that for the first time the government will be spending “the savings from future benefits” to get people into training and work – spending up to £14,000 per person. “The Work programme is the biggest back-to-work scheme this country has seen since the 1930s.” Quite a boast.

Cameron then retaliated with his own swipe of the cat’s claw: “He mentions internships. I did a little research into his: he did one for Tony Benn and one for the deputy leader of the Labour party. No wonder he is so left-wing, so politically correct and so completely ineffective.” Blimey. Can someone stop Cameron over-egging the pudding? These Flashman flourishes ill become him. If he could just stop himself from his natural urge to put in the Clegg-shined boot at the end, he’d be a lot more effective.

Hansard then records “Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con) rose—“. There are few more majestic events in the Parliamentary Calendar. Deregulation is not proceeding fast enough and will the PM jolly well hurry up about it? – He, more or less, asked. Vince Cable is doing his best and if he isn’t going fast enough it’s all Europe’s fault – Cameron, sort of, replied.

Nick Raynsford (Lab) asked whether visitors to the 2012 Olympics will go away with an abiding memory of homeless people on the streets of London. Stuff and nonsense, Cameron didn’t say, but meant.

Then, after a brief detour into Yorkshire via super-fast broadband, Ed Miliband pounced out of the woodwork again with a question about Forestry. Is the PM happy with his flagship forestry policy? – he asked. “No” said Cameron. What?!! Oh, it’s a consultation. But, as Miliband alleged, it’s a consultation on how to flog off forests, not whether to. Oh, and he threw in an amusing line about Cameron, the man who gave the Tories their tree logo flogging off trees.

Cameron appears to be on the back foot with forestry. He seems to have shouted “Timber” and then had second thoughts as the tree descends on his head. “Everyone knows” said Miliband, that this policy will have to be reversed. “Everyone”? Really? “The bandwagon has just hit a bit of a tree” replied Cameron with uncharacteristic brevity. He knows when he’s beat.

Just when Cameron thought it was safe to breathe easily, he came under, perhaps unintended, friendly fire. Bernard Jenkin unhelpfully announced that “the Public Administration Committee is today launching an inquiry into the big society”. You could almost see Cameron mentally crossing Jenkin off his Christmas card list.

Duncan Hames (Liberal Democrat) drew Cameron’s attention to the invalid comparison between care homes and hospitals, with respect to changes to the disability allowance. Many, through disability, spend their whole lives in care homes, he said.

Dr Julian Huppert (Liberal Democrat) asked if MPs will see the proposed terrorism prevention and investigation measures (TPIMs) before it votes to extend control orders, which will eventually be replaced by TPIMs. Yes, said Cameron.

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6 Comments

  • I see no Iceberg 17th Feb '11 - 8:42am

    Good review as usual Mr Walter.

  • I see no Iceberg 17th Feb '11 - 11:22am

    I always enjoy your reviews Paul as you never fall into the tribalism trap IMHO.

    The only things I would add was that there was a strange air of restlessness in the commons yesterday not helped by some of the questions and some of Cameron’s answers which were, not to put too fine a point on it, rambling and boring.
    And the other was Nick Clegg.
    Long have the sketchwriters drawn attention to his less than chipper demeanor as he sits next to Cameron, but yesterday was the most miserable I have ever seen him. Trouble at mill ?

  • An accurate appraisal of yesterday’s proceedings at PMQs. Ed Miliband becomes more impressive each week.
    I would endorse “I see no Iceberg’s” reflection on Clegg. He looked completely downcast and, politically, I would suggest, with good reason when the Lib Dems remain at such a low point in the polls. Could it also be to do with the way the Lib Dems have been sidelined in PMQs? Yesterday, only two Lib Dems were able to ask questions. Every week at PMQs it looks like the Lib Dems have been banished to the Remove while Flashman and his henchmen dominate the House. Not good for democracy.

  • Strangely enough I thought Cameron did a little better at PMQ on Wenesday compared to previous performances although he just can’t resist the urge to get personal – he obviously just doesn’t get how ordinary people outwith the Westminster Village respond.

    I must admit that when watching I was totally bemused over the Forestry Policy NO answer and wondered if Milliband had been sold some kind of a pup by an advisor – of course next day revealed all and it would appear that Milliband was right on the money and people will remember that he was the one that told Cameron the Tory Coalition would require to do a policy U-turn on Forestry Policy. It didn’t come from the LibDem benches.

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