PMQs: Miliband 1 Barn Door 1

It was the last pre-Christmas Prime Minister’s Questions today and we saw the return of Nick Clegg loyally sitting at the PM’s right-hand side.

Ed Miliband started on the economy, and the news that unemployment is up again. He quoted David Cameron’s words when he came to office, saying that jobs would be “uppermost”. “What’s gone wrong?” asked the opposition leader.

Cameron’s main thrust during the 2010 election campaign was that new private sector jobs should lead the economic recovery and more than replace lost public sector jobs. Miliband did a good job of exposing that this bright idea has allegedly failed. In the last three months, he said, for every one job gained in the private sector, 13 jobs have been lost in the public sector. Cameron quoted a different set of numbers saying that since the election 581,000 private jobs have been created and 336,000 public jobs have been lost.

The Milicam exchange was a bit like “déjà vu all over again”. Cameron gave his normal quotes from his file about the work programme, apprenticeships etc and then did his normal “I won’t take lectures from….” schtick.

Miliband was looking very relaxed. But then he got onto the state of the coalition and got a bit mullered. Welcoming Nick Clegg back to his place, he said Cameron had broken his promise to be “more collegiate” last week. In a good line, Miliband said:

I think our sympathy is with the Deputy Prime Minister. His partner goes on a business trip and he is left waiting by the phone, but he hears nothing until a rambling phone call at 4 am confessing to a terrible mistake.

– That was good. But the laughter was greater when Cameron replied that it would be no surprise to anyone that he and the DPM disagree on Europe:

It’s not like we’re brothers or anything.

Then we were into “no apology for standing up for Britain”.

Liberal Democrat questions
Simon Wright asked about the scandal of pocket-money priced alcohol.

Adrian Sanders asked about preventing unnecessary deaths from diabetes.

Christmas Cheer question
Euro-sceptic Tory Philip Hollobone asked if the successful EU prisoner transfer scheme will be extended to other countries. David Cameron replied that if Mr Hollobone is asking about a successful EU scheme then it really must be Christmas.

Paul Walter blogs at Liberal Burblings

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10 Comments

  • Paul McKeown 14th Dec '11 - 2:34pm

    Ed Miliband is incapable of stringing together two good performances. An excellent one on Monday, a stinker today. He’s had three outstanding performances since becoming leader, the rest has been average to mediocre. If I was in the Labour Party, I would be calling for a safe pair of hands with good oratory (someone like Hilary Benn, for instance) to take over until one of the next generation (Stella Creasy, Rachel Reeves, whoever) matured into the leadership role. Of course Labour would still find it difficult to make inroads, as its official economic policy position flies in the face of the public mood. Nevertheless people would be more receptive to it with a changed leadership. No personal attack on Ed M., he seems decent enough, but he could only ever become Prime Minister by default, never by convincing others of the merits of his ideas.

  • Paul, I agree.

    Ed. M. is not PM, or even Opposition leader, material. He is not a consumate speaker nor able to score off “SlipperyDave” in debate. As you say, he seems decent enough but, having said that, Dave undoes all Ed’s valid points with slick, throwaway jibes.

    Unless Labour can find someone personable who can damage DC, and put him on the defensive, their future looks as unelectable as under Michael Foot.

  • Atlee was hardly charismatic but he provided Labour with a Landslide. Labour people distrust flashy, flamboyance. It was a mistake for Ed to give Cameron the chance to show his muscles over Europe. He should have ended with questions on unemployment, not begun with them. Otherwise he was serious and sincere, a man for the times.

  • Maria Pretzler…

    Sorry but I disagree. In today’s political arena “Perception is everything”. The LibDem election campaign, pushed for a slower ‘deficit reduction’…..Osborne’s march budget, labelled “Go for growth’ has turned out to be a damp squib; Camereon’s pledge that those jobs ‘lost’ in the public sector would be taken up by jobs created in the private has turned into a sad fantasy (although, today, he produced figures, presumably collected by ‘The Brothers Grimm’, to back up his claim)…

    Such items give Milliband ample ammunition to embarass the coalition but, in the House and on Radio/Television he comes over as hesitant and unsure. Cameron, meanwhile, dodges awkward questions and exudes confidence….

  • Cameron’s jibe was cheap and a way to divert attention…but it was actually genuinely pretty funny (a rarity among pre-prepared political jokes). I think the Tory bump in the polls will be short lived, and that along with a comfortable win in an easy area, along with no appetite for anyone to make the first move against him, will ensure Ed M will bounce back from this at least a little, but at present it doesn’t matter if he makes good points on Europe or not (as Cameron knows the public is on side overwhelmingly) and the economy attacks are, amazingly, still not as effective as he would hope, and he is looking very deflated, and should be after what the coverage will focus on.

  • MacK

    Atlee wasn’t on the tv every single hour. Times have changed, and people aren’t going to respond to some geek who speaks weird.

    As for ‘ Labour people distrust flashy, flamboyance’ – most people think positive things such as that about themselves, but having over a decade of Blair would suggest otherwise. (not that Blair, Cameron, etc are actually flashy and flamboyant, we are in the UK afterall, but they possibly are in politics terms)

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 15th Dec '11 - 9:38am

    Slightly digressing, but I remember the story which former BBC Political Editor John Cole told of his early days as a journalist. He was working for a newspaper in his native Northern Ireland and chanced to see Prime Minister Atlee with his wife stopped beside his car by the border, smoking his pipe. No bodyguards or anything. John Cole walked up to him and introduced himself. On finding out he was a journalist, Atlee said: “Got your pencil?” and proceeded to pour out an extensive interview on the events of the day.
    Different world to now eh?

  • @Tom

    “Atlee wasn’t on the tv every single hour.”

    A good point. But then again Atlee was up against Churchill, the PM who had just defeated Hitler, a man who was held in huge public esteem and who was a collossus in the then media. Defeat for Churchill was unthinkable but it happened because of huge dissatisfaction with the system. The Feltham bye-election may be instructive on this point. As for “speaking weird” most people seem to speak “weird” these days. Youth street patois seems particularly weird to my ears. Perhaps that’s why Ed Miliband is perceived as being a good communicator with ordinary people. His carefully placed sound bites are excellent when taken out of the context of PMQs and re-played on the television news. And as for being a “nerd” well, he was the brave man who took on the Murdoch empire while flashy, braggadocios like Cameron quailed at the prospect and even ensured that Vince Cable was removed from his post because of his negative remarks about Murdoch.

  • It doesn’t help that the vast majority of the media is, unashamedly, anti-Milliband.
    Even on LDV, his ‘slip-of-the-tongue’ resulted in a silly thread condemning his ‘maths’ and pretending not to understand his meaning. The thing was that, although his point was valid, the message was lost because of the messenger.

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