PMQs: Libya sits on Hague’s head like a baseball cap

Ed Miliband boot the put in at Prime Minister’s Questions this week, regarding the string of cock-ups on the Libyan front, presided over by one William Hague, Foreign Secretary of this parish.

He said: “We have had the flights fiasco, talk of Colonel Gaddafi heading to Venezuela when he was not, overblown briefing about potential military action, and the setback last weekend.”

All in all, Libya is starting to rank alongside baseball caps in the list of things William Hague should leave well off his CV.

“We have an excellent Foreign Secretary” was finally squeezed out of Cameron by way of “support” for Hague. It was one step away from a Football Club Chairman expressing full support for his manager, while filling out his P45.

In the face of this onslaught Cameron did what comes naturally: he threw back Labour’s past record – in this case Megrahi. He said we should have had an apology from Labour about the release of Megrahi. I hadn’t realized that the SNP and Labour are now one.

Miliband then shifted onto the subject of the police. He quoted the Association of Chief Police Officers saying, allegedly, that 12,000 front-line police officers are going to be lost. It was the “front-line” moniker on which the debate pivoted. Miliband said the ACPO said “front-line”, Cameron said they didn’t.

It’s a moot point. The website “Full Fact” contacted ACPO and were told “that the figure is not explicitly front line officers, as the estimate had not differentiated between front line and non front line officers.”

Cameron threw Alan Johnson quotes at Miliband (again), plus quotes from David Miliband about the “deficit of ideas” on the left. Miliband said the government were going too far with cuts of 20% to the police, rather than 12%, which HM’s Inspectorate of Constabulary recommended.

Humour watch: Cameron seems rather obsessed with Ed Miliband’s brother, which prompted this response from Ed Miliband: “The more that the right hon. Gentleman brings my relatives into this argument, the more that we know he is losing the argument. I have a second cousin in Belgium he will be going after next, I am sure.” Well I liked it, anyway.

Other snippets were:

  • Tom Brake (LibDem) didn’t really ask a question. He was interrupted half way through it. But that didn’t stop Cameron replying. 880,000 people being removed from paying income tax altogether, seemed to be the gist of it.
  • Sir Alan Beith (LibDem) highlighted the higher fuel prices in rural areas, where fuel is an essential. He asked if there would be some sort of relief for rural fuel users in the budget. Wait and see, said Cameron, mentioning also heating bills.
  • Shirley Williams was quoted as saying that she feels “under no obligation to support policies outside the agreement” in a question from Karl Turner (Lab) about the NHS reforms.
  • Neil Carmichael (Con) asked about AV, calling it “unfair, expensive and discredited”. Cameron replied saying “The alternative vote is used in only three countries. They are Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea—and Fiji is beginning to change its mind.”
  • The Electoral Reform Society came up in a question (also Early Day Motion 1550) from Brian Donohue (Lab) which alleged that the society is funding “a campaign”. Cameron concurred that he thought it is odd that an organization that runs elections should also be funding a campaign. If either of them had taken the trouble to look at the ERS website, they would have seen at the top of their “About us” page in bold “The Electoral Reform Society is campaigning to change the way we choose our politicians”. Cameron and Donohue are not, par chance, mixing up the Electoral Reform Society with Electoral Reform Services are they? The latter grew out of the former, but they are clearly separate, with separate websites. Electoral Reform Services has been a separate company since 1988.
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19 Comments

  • Ed The Snapper 10th Mar '11 - 7:09am

    All this obsession with some kind of alleged feud between the Milliband brothers. Does the feud mean anything to a low-paid worker or an unemployed worker or a pensioner? No. Cameron is making a big mistake on that issue.

  • Cameron’s barbed comment re: Miliband and the ‘knifing’ of Foreign Secretaries actually made it onto mainstream evening news yesterday and though Miliband only featured briefly as the questioner, he still came across as the measured and reserved politician compared to Cameron’s “I still can’t behave like PM” jibing.

    I’m really starting to wonder if it will be long before the perception will start to gain real traction that Cameron’s not up to task, let alone Hague. He still behaves like he’s in opposition with his bullish insults rather than measured responses. Or will the communication gurus swoop and address it before it gets that far?

  • Depressed Ex 10th Mar '11 - 8:06am

    Party politics aside, is there any chance we’re actually going to do something about this slaughter in Libya, rather than saying “If it gets much worse we shall have to think about doing something”?

  • Both Cameron and Miliband’s attempts at barbs were either petty or ineffective in my opinion, but Cameron’s was more memorable and, thus, probably won on points in terms of who is perceived as coming out on top, especially as trying to paint Cameron as an entitled, elitist, out of touch snob as EdM did is not going to work; he’s been around for years and faced the same accusation, and if people have not made up their minds about that by now I would be very surprised, so it just plays to those who already hate him and makes EdM also look silly to those who either think Cameron is still ok even as one who thinks he is born to rule, or those who disagree.

    @Veeten

    I don’t think it will. Cameron is usually pretty measured in fact, but when he does strike out (and he has had to more often because of real and perceived messes) he does get cruel and petty, but his general demeanour still comes across as cool and collected most of the time, making them seem more like exceptions during PMQs than the rule; he’s just playing to his supporters who want some good Labour mocking (the only explanation for the DavidM comment – it amuses them and probably still annoys EdM, even if it doesn’t play that well to anyone else but themselves).

    The fact that it makes Cameron seem he is not behaviing like a PM I also doubt wil lmake any traction with the public. I know Blair was a good performer, but my abiding memory of him is how he was more than happy to be contemptuous and dismissive rather than answer a question (he was PM for a long time after all, and the usual tactics of the waffle and the answer your own question must get boring after a while). Note: this is general political behaviour, not party specific.

    Labour’s sniping over Libya has still seemed a little strong to me though, playing party politics rather than just holding the government to account, as they have seriously exaggerated examples of incompetence in this, and I’m surprised EdM targeted that area so much.

    @ Depressed Ex

    Not unless we live in a different world to the one we have our entire lives.

  • Simon Hoggart said it best in the Guardian.

    Cameron is looking more bonkers every week in PMQs.

    I agree with @Ed the Snapper. Cameron looks more + more pompous every time he deflects an issue with a personal, snide remark. When it does make the news, it shows his flaws to the public. He looks, sounds + acts like a privileged descendant of the Royal Family. Tha’s hardly going to build confidence in a flagging Coalition now, is it?

  • Libya sits on more heads than Hague, or should I say the consequences do, the USA fired a small but important shot across the bows so to speak, but no one seems to have noticed, but I think the meaning is quite clear…
    “At the Security Council, where Britain and France are pushing for a resolution authorizing a no-fly zone, diplomats said the Americans had made clear they were not ready to press ahead with the measure.”

    International backing and not USA led, so in other words, get off your backsides and get it sorted, not enough aircraft carriers, not an excuse…

    Reduce your military at your own risk; because the USA is not going to be the on call police man, so the rest can cut their own costs, this is the subtle message being given.

  • Ed The Snapper 10th Mar '11 - 9:35am

    from jedibeeftrix “We have had the flights fiasco, talk of Colonel Gaddafi heading to Venezuela when he was not, overblown briefing about potential military action, and the setback last weekend.”
    On the matter of Venezuela I am constantly amazed that people continue to spout the line of it being a mistake, when its purpose was no doubt to keep the Libyan people on the street at a time when this nascent rebellion could easily have been crushed by a show of force from Gaddafi.

    I do not think the statement was just a mistake. It also showed a hope by the ConDem government that they could link Gadaffi with Venezuela. I have no doubt that our current government and the US government want to see the Venezualan government overthrown and are happy to use propaganda against Venezuela. Conversely, the ConDem government (like the previous British government) want to see the Gadaffis stay in power in Libya to protect Britains lucrative trade in oil. The last thing the British government wants to see is a democratic Libya that may turn east for assistance and turn against the western countries that supported Gadaffi. Is it true that as a result of the untrue statement many Libyans went out onto the street celebrating and were killed by Gadaffis forces?

  • @jedibeeftrix who said: ‘On the matter of Venezuela I am constantly amazed that people continue to spout the line of it being a mistake, when its purpose was no doubt to keep the Libyan people on the street at a time when this nascent rebellion could easily have been crushed by a show of force from Gaddafi.’

    I think you have missed the point about Hague’s statement – it probably caused a lot of Libyans to feel safer taking to the streets as did Cameron’s no-fly and arming the rebels comments. The effect of these empty and ill-considered words are now resulting in the slaughter of thousands of Libyan men, women and children.

    I fear there isn’t the actual capability in terms of troops and equipment to actually do anything to help the Libyan people so we will be left with ineffectual sanctions for years waiting for Gadaffi to die of natural causes and hopefully his sons killing each other in a power struggle.

    As for anything else I really have serious doubts and cannot express enough the worry I am starting to feel about the retribution Gadaffi will wreak on his people and not just those who have actively taken-up arms against him.

    It is in the light of this kind of scenario that we should be judging how fit Cameron is for power when he looks increasingly like a bad music-hall act and I note that after a period of abstinence that Clegg is slipping back into his nodding, smiling role as his Master’s poodle.

  • MacK (Labour) 10th Mar '11 - 10:57am

    Another round in the Flashman v Tom Brown psychodrama yesterday. I too thought Ed’s joke about his second cousin in Belgium was quite good. But the best joke of the day came from the Tory M.P. who insisted that everyone was demanding it, especially his wife. (A referendum on leaving the EEC, of course)

    Ed’s strategy of constructing a narrative on the Tory led coalition’s record of incompetence was sound and again got right under Flashman’s skin. Why is it that Cameron always responds to Ed as though he’s Tom Brown and has had the temerity to speak his mind? Very unattractive. Cameron should remember that the sympathy is always with Tom Brown.

    @• Depressed Ex
    Posted 10th March 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink
    “Party politics aside, is there any chance we’re actually going to do something about this slaughter in Libya, rather than saying “If it gets much worse we shall have to think about doing something”?”

    Would you be a depressed member of the Liberal Democrat party? The same party that excoriated Labour so much when it decided to actually remove a despotic dictator who was slaughtering thousands of his citizens in Iraq. No, of course not. A different case entirely!

  • @jedibeeftrix

    Sadly I accept that internal challenge to brutal non-democratic regimes often means violence and death and that is a price, as you say, that some protesters will choose to make. I would like to think I would make the same choice but as I have never been in that position I don’t know what I would do if faced with it.

    My choice would also be influenced not just by my courage or cowardice but by what risk my actions would create for my nearest and dearest.

    Whether mass slaughter with no change in the regime is an acceptable outcome is another matter but again only those personally involved in the uprising can really make that dec ision IMHO.

    But the point I am making is that loose talk and empty promises from politicians at a safe remove from any danger could well lead to increased carnage and loss of life.

  • Depressed Ex 10th Mar '11 - 1:41pm

    I fear there isn’t the actual capability in terms of troops and equipment to actually do anything to help the Libyan people …

    I’m puzzled. Do you mean that there isn’t the capability to enforce a no-fly zone? Or that it wouldn’t help the Libyan people?

  • Stuart Mitchell 11th Mar '11 - 7:06pm

    Jedibeeftrix: “there is a price to be paid for liberty and it would seem the Libyan people are willing to pay for it. You seem to be under the impression that safety trumps liberty”

    Easily said from a position of safety. Don’t you think the Libyan people deserve to be given accurate information before they take that decision to go out and face tanks and machine guns?

    If, as you say, Hague deliberately spun this kind of misinformation then he has blood on his hands and should resign. He should resign anyway as he clearly isn’t up to the job.

  • Stuart Mitchell 11th Mar '11 - 7:13pm

    “Cameron and Donohue are not, par chance, mixing up the Electoral Reform Society with Electoral Reform Services are they?”

    That’s rather a moot point since the ERS is the main shareholder in ERSL, gets most of its income from ERSL, and has been given over £1m from ERSL specifically for the purpose of funding the Yes campaign.

    ERSL has a commercial interest in the referendum, is involved in administering it, yet is the main financier for one of the campaigns. It’s a clear conflict of interest and Cameron is right to be concerned by it.

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