PMQs: Penguin in the menage à trois

The first big subject at Prime Minister’s Questions this week was Europe. Tory MP Andrew Rosindell asked if David Cameron would show “bulldog spirit” at the forthcoming summit. Later, similar points came from various Tory Eurosceptic MPs, including the Father of the House, Sir Peter Tapsell. He is always heard with great respect, despite his long-winded, rather pompous and, in this case, halting mini-speeches which have barely inquisitive constructions stuck on the end of them.

Ed Miliband started on Europe as well, asking if Cameron would fulfil his promise that treaty change might give the opportunity to “repatriate powers”. The Prime Minister responded with carefully crafted concoction of words designed to try to keep his back-benchers happy, while giving himself enough wiggle room to stage a full-scale reconstruction of the Battle of Balaclava.

Miliband’s second batch of questions were about the effect of government policies on the poor. He asked:

Will the Prime Minister confirm that according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, next year the poorest third of families will lose three times as much as the richest third, as a result of his economic policy?

Cameron avoided the question by ignoring the terms of the question and instead talking about the impact of all government policies since 2010.

Ed Miliband was at his most passionate, completely in control of his brief. He mentioned that taxes on private jets were being delayed and ended with the jibe that Cameron is hitting “women and children first” when it comes to cuts.

However, it can’t be ignored that Miliband looks rather strange at the dispatch box. A bit like a penguin trying to stand up on particularly slippery ice. I notice he uses his hands in a rather awkward way. – Palms down, fingers turning up at the end. It’s like Angelos on “Shooting Stars”.

This week Ed Miliband was flanked on each side by a married couple – Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper. In fact, it lent the Labour leadership doughnut the feel of a “menage a trois”. I wonder if a UK PM or Opposition leader as ever been flanked at PMQs by a married couple before. One for only the most devoted anoraks. (Probably someone will say it happened two weeks ago when Balls and Cooper last sat there. OK, yes I know I can be very slow…..)

Ed Balls is determined to have a walk-on part at every PMQs. It’s very tiresome. This time he was constantly trying to push a print-out of a Powerpoint slide over to Cameron.

LibDem questions: John Thurso asked about the difficulty of small and medium businesses in obtaining financing, and whether the PM would consider breaking up the nationalised banks to create more competition on the High Street.

Ian Swales asked about possible plans by Redcar and Cleveland borough council to ignore the council tax freeze and raise tax locally by 3.5%.

Tease of the week: Mark Tami (Lab) asked Cameron if he had plans for a Christmas bash with Rebekah Brooks and Jeremy Clarkson. The PM said he’d be having a quiet family Christmas.

Researcher-watch: Some poor researcher scraped up the fascinating fact that the only people in Europe who support Labour’s plans are the Moldovan Communist party. Good work!

Paul Walter blogs at Liberal Burblings

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This entry was posted in PMQs.


  • Seems like you view PMQ’s as Craig judges Strictly Come Dancing. I watched PMQ’s too. It wasn’t the hand positions of Miliband that stuck me but the rabid onslaught of the Eurosceptic Tory MP’s. You may have found Ed rather a comic figure – but at least he seemed to be trying to counter the Eurosceptics. I looked for the passionate LibDem response and found none. Now we find that our PM has singlehandedly managed what even handbag wielding Thatcher could not, despite all her rhetoric, we are alone in Europe. Ok with the exception of Hungry. Our proposals do not even warrant detailed consideration by the rest of Europe. I note that there have been many attempts to bang the drum about union funding and the Labour Party – but are you sure that when Cameron says he is protecting the national interests of the UK – he just doesn’t mean his mates and party funders from the City.

    Please don’t tell me that the current position is one that the LibDem Party really supports – we are alone, a laughing stock in Europe and the Tory Eurosceptics are delighted – another win then for LibDem influence?

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 9th Dec '11 - 3:11pm

    Craig Revel Horwood?! Lol! But you’re right. He’s always going on about the hands.

  • Peter Chivall 9th Dec '11 - 7:17pm

    Reports on the BBC midday today suggested that Clegg was informed of Cameron’s veto (just before his press conference)but had not been consulted as the talks progressed, whereas William Hague, by his own account,was. Clegg later said he had agreed the strategy previously with Cameron. (This appears not the first time we have gone along with a Tory pretence at negotiation when their demands are fixed and they refuse to discuss anything of substance – remember Public Sector Pensions?)
    Did Nick Clegg really believe that agreeing with Cameron’s defence of a greedy and dysfunctional financial sector was more important than saving our largest market from imploding? Or is he playing a longer game – now that it looks like being 26 against 1 – that the subsequent changes to various other treaties (demanded by Chancellor Merkel) will lead to an ‘in-or-out’ Commons vote and referendum that will destroy the Tories as a Party of government for a generation? I can only wish…..

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