PMQs: Nadine Dorries asks question. No-one dies.

Today was the fiftieth anniversary of Prime Minister’s Questions. And it was a fairly typical session. As always, it was in two parts.

Part one: Lots of jeering, cheering, knockabout, winding-up and prepared lines exchanged between the PM and opposition leader.

Part Two: Generally hum-drum but important questions from various back-benchers, largely heard in earnest silence.

The bit that most people will see will be the short bit on the telly, which will be a few seconds of ya-boo politics. In itself, that is a good piece of democracy in that it highlights the weaknesses of the government and the opposition. The longer piece, which most people don’t see, is, in a different way, a good exercise in democracy. The Prime Minister, of whatever party, has to be on top of a multitude of briefs, and has to be on her or his mettle. That, in itself, is a good thing.

There was one heck of a load of jeering from Labour when Cameron got up today. Because no members of the armed forces had been killed in the last few days, they knew they had carte blanche to behave raucously from the start – knowing that there would be no tribute to armed forces’ members at the start of Cameron’s piece.

Again, there was an almighty noise from the Labour benches, when Ed Miliband stood up. This time it was cheering.

On this 50th anniversary of the PMQs beast, it is interesting to reflect on how PMQs often helps the underdog (the exception to the rule being G.Brown).  When events have conspired to put either the PM or the Opposition leader in the political doghouse, everyone expects them to come to the dispatch box on Wednesday and have their nose well and truly rubbed in…er….what’s on the floor of the average doghouse. In the event, perhaps as a result of extra preparatory focus and goodwill from supporting MPs, they come to PMQs and don’t do too badly.

Today was such a day. Although I have treated the subject with a high degree of detached disinterest, I understand that David Cameron has been under some pressure from his back-benchers. As a result, he knew that a tough PMQs was coming. As a result, he constructed quite a defiant series of ripostes to Miliband. So much so, that at the end of the exchange Labour benches were somewhat subdued and the Tories were looking rather heartened.

It was all about the EU and, as Miliband maintained, the PM spending more time sorting out his back benchers than focussing on efforts to achieve more growth through EU action.

Cameron’s response was centred around the £100 billion figure which he mentioned last week. I am not sure where he got it from, but it seems to be the figure which he says Labour say they would not cut from the deficit. Cameron said that if Labour were in power they wouldn’t be going to the EU with ideas for growth initiatives (which is what Miliband was asking for) but asking for a bail-out for the UK instead.

He went further and said that if Ed Miliband had his way, the UK would be like Monaco – i.e in the Euro but not in the IMF. As Monaco is one of the richest countries in the world, I am not sure it was a good example for Cameron to choose.

LibDem question watch

Duncan Hames asked about cuts to the legal aid grants to advice services. The PM said he would look at long-term funding for these groups, such as the Citizens’ Advce Bureau.

Stephen Lloyd highlighted the success of apprenticeships in Eastbourne. 

Tom Brake raised the extraordinary point that “Two thirds of young people involved in the riots had a special educational need.”

Remarkably obscure quotation watch

We learnt from Sir Peter Tapsell that Talleyrand’s advice to leaders of the opposition was “Pas trop de zèle”.

Dorries watch

Nadine Dorries asked about an incinerator in Bedfordshire. No-one died.

Paul Walter blogs at Liberal Burblings

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and PMQs.


  • Tony Dawson 26th Oct '11 - 7:48pm

    “Nadine Dorries asked about an incinerator in Bedfordshire.”

    The arch-moralist wants the state to pay to dispose of all the photos of her and her recently-disposed-of beau?

  • Andrew Tennant 26th Oct '11 - 8:09pm

    Nick Clegg was the clear winner today – Cameron was made to look impotent by the fact it’s Lib Dems blocking his extremism and being influential in the direction of government policy.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 26th Oct '11 - 8:30pm

    @Andrew Tennant Excellent point.

  • It is most deceitful of Cameron to keep quoting Ed Miliband out of context. When Ed was asked by John Sopell on last week’s Politics Show whether he would rule out joining the Euro, Ed replied “I don’t think that’s ever going to happen no . . . I can’t see it in the foreseeable future. I’m saying it’s very unlikely. We made the right decision not to go into the Euro — the last Labour Government — absolutely the right decision. Then, when asked by Sopell if he thought that Brussels had too much power Ed replied “I don’t think that Brussels has too much power but the way power is exercised fails our country sometimes.” He then went on to argue for the reform of Europe. How does Cameron spin this at PMQs? That Labour wants to take Britain into the Euro and Ed Miliband doesn’t think that Europe has too much power. Disgraceful.

  • I agree with MacK that Cameron has has purposefully misrepresented Miliband.

    To be fair though, Ed has changed his mind/opinion/party’s policy on so much in such a short space of time, it’s going to be very easy to misrepresent his views. I mean, he’s onto his 3rd tuition fees policy in the same amount of years!

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