PMQs: Who’d be a Prime Minister?

Prime Minister’s Question time is getting rather repetitive. But by hook and by crook, Ed Miliband is determinedly clawing his way forward. Today’s was quite an impressive performance from the Opposition leader. He is obviously doing his homework. He certainly gets an “E” for effort.

Cameron’s snarling responses continue rather gratuitously, albeit leavened with some good points.
Today’s session was dominated by banking. Miliband attacked Cameron for breaking promises on bankers’ pay, bank taxation and transparency. It is all Labour’s fault that the government can’t stop large RBS pay awards – they wrote the contract, riposted Cameron.

There then followed a points draw on taxation of the banks. Miliband said Labour’s £3.5billion tax is more than the coalition’s £1.2billion tax. Cameron trumped that by saying that the coalition’s £9billion is more than Labour’s £2.3billion. It all depends over which time period you measure.
Cameron’s weakest answer came when he was asked why he doesn’t publish all bonuses over £1million. He floundered really. He made a jibe about Miliband and his brother and then gave Prime Ministerial stock response #14: “They had 13 years to fix it but they didn’t”.

When asked about the Walker Report recommendations, Cameron then came back with a good answer which included a timely reminder that Labour knighted Fred Goodwin “for services to banking” and sent him on his way with a £70 million pay-off.

To which, Miliband had a good response, reminding us that throughout the run-up to the banking crisis, Cameron was saying “de-regulate more” and putting the Vulcan, John Redwood, in charge of banking policy. As I say, he had done his homework.

Then we got Cameron’s gratuitously insulting finisher: “He was the nothing man at the Treasury and he is the nothing man now that he is trying to run the Labour party.”

Other snippets were:

Unusually, no Liberal Democrat asked a question.

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Con) asked about the closure of Brixham coastguard and got the now stock response about sharing back office staff. Am I only one to think this ruse is beginning to wear a bit thin?

Steven Metcalfe raised the issue of facilitating the closure of roads for street parties to celebrate the Royal Wedding.

Bernard Jenkin (Con) asked a strange question which commended the government’s vacillation on control orders. It’s not often someone congratulates the government on not taking a decision.

Nik Dakin (Lab) asked about the withdrawal of the EMA and David Hanson asked about the “promise not to raise VAT”.

Richard Ottoway wants to change the rules on strike ballots so that a majority of those entitled to vote have to vote in favour to allow a strike to go ahead. On that basis we’d have a bout two MPs elected to Parliament, wouldn’t we?

There was a long line of MPs reminding us of depressing developments:

  • Angus Robertson (SNP) – Tuition fees and “no fuel duty stabiliser”
  • Ian Lucas (Lab) – 20,000 “front line police cut”
  • Anne McIntosh (Con) – fuel price rises
  • Paul Flynn (Lab) – the proposed closure of Newport passport office
  • Jenny Chapman – moving Business department jobs from Darlington to London
  • Jim Shannon (DUP) – Closure of Bangor coastguard station
  • Jim Sheridan (Lab) and Alex Cunningham (Lab) – Murdoch
  • Lindsay Roy – the damp squib of the “bonfire of the quangoes”

Who’d be a Prime Minister, eh?

But cheer up, Crawley hospital has a new Mamagram machine, and Great Yarmouth has been approved as one of the pathfinder schemes for GP practitioners.

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29 Comments

  • Sunder Katwala 12th Jan '11 - 11:39pm

    Doesn’t LibDemVoice strive for higher factual standards than this?

    “There then followed a points draw on taxation of the banks. Miliband said Labour’s £3.5billion tax is more than the coalition’s £1.2billion tax. Cameron trumped that by saying that the coalition’s £9billion is more than Labour’s £2.3billion. It all depends over which time period you measure

    Anybody can see that the £9 billion/£2.3 billion claim is misleading. You would need to write “It all depends on whether Cameron is allowed to deny that the banks will pay less tax this year by rolling together receipts across the whole Parliament (£8.8 billion), rounding it up, and comparing it to the receipts taken last year”.

    Channel 4 fact-check: the PM was “up to tricks” today
    http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/5494/5494

    Financial Times Westminster … “It is Miliband who is telling the truth”
    http://blogs.ft.com/westminster/2011/01/pmqs-david-cameron-on-the-ropes-over-bank-bonuses/

  • I remember Cameron when he became Leader of the Opposition and how be was going to be Mr Nice Guy in Parliamentary exchanges.

    Any observer with a speck of objectivity recognises he never answers a question unless it is a fawning one planted by the whips for a backbencher to ask.

    When it is the opposition he just doesn’t answer – when it is Milliband who alone gets the chance to come back at him he squirms and wriggles but still doesn’t answer except to blame Labour for everything. But when that doesn’t work he resorts to schoolboy humour and then descends to insults as he gets more carried away with his ‘power’.

    Milliband, on the contrary, sticks to the task in hand and keeps his cool and I genuinely believe this approach will win in the end as far as the general public are concerned. The public don’t like bullies or self-satisfied clowns and fortunately for Labour that is what Cameron appears to be turning into – Mr Urbane he is not.

    Watching the Milliband press conference on Monday was highly enlightening as he actually answered questions to a level that Camerom seems incapable of doing – he is becoming more and more like Blair every day and I don’t believe a word coming out of his mouth – just like Blair.

    And then there’s Clegg who has managed to turn into a piece of blotting paper that is soaking up all the public opprobrium which should be landing on Cameron. Politics is a funny old game but I think things will start to clear in all sorts of ways after Oldham, the referendum and the May elections and also what, if any, action the LibDem Party takes vis a vis Clegg and the rest of their MPs.

  • Wasn’t it disturbing to watch Clegg sitting next to Cameron behaving like an enthusiastic Tory. Disturbing but not surprising perhaps?

  • Brian Dash beat me to it!

    Miliband won hands down today. When even Benedict Brogan at the Telegraph agrees with that statement, you know you may have a point.

    But my main point was about Clegg. He was like a Tory nodding dog yesterday – nodding and shouting his approval to every word his boss uttered; shaking his head and booing to every word from the Leader of the Opposition.

    This seperartion strategy the Party has apparently now adopted doesn’t seem to have filtered up to our Nicky now, does it?

  • Emsworthian 13th Jan '11 - 9:13am

    Agree with Brian that Clegg’s nodding donkey act throughout Cameron’s
    performance is just teeth grinding. Miliband was bang on the money and
    should continue to play the banker card even though his side has lots to answer for
    when they were running it.

  • Mammogram?

  • They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In my eyes Red Ed is so lacking in luster, I find him a complete turn off. Considering he is supposed to be the best Labour can offer, I find his whole presentation drab and from what I have seen so far there is no real way in which he can change that because that is what he is, A carrer politician with very little depth of caracter.

  • I hear what people are saying about Clegg’s behaviour on the front bench and it could hardly be called statesmanlike but has anyone watched Alexander – he is becoming more a braying Tory every day and he’s even beginning to look like the more odius specimens.

  • @Richard

    We had a beauty contest for party leaders and we got Cameron and Clegg – I really do believe the elctorate might start looking for other leadership qualities in future.

    As to Milliband’s character – well in my long experience of life I don’t judge anyone’s character on promises but on what they actually do. Milliband is quite clear he will under-promise and hopefully over-perform.

    The British public thought they were getting ‘new’ politics with Clegg and they were badly let-down. I think they will gradually come to recognise that Milliband can actually deliver new politics.

    All you comments about Milliband are highly personalised – the voting public in the final analysis will vote for the leader and party who protects them best and the way things are heading Milliband will be their choice at the next GE. He just needs to remain on a steady course while the Tory Government continues its attacks on every front and the voters will flock to Labour as the LibDems sink beneath the waves wearing lead lifebelts of public hatred for making the Tory cuts possible.

  • wasn’t quering the facts rather the spelling

  • It is despicable the way that Cameron and the Tory dominated coalition constantly blame the Labour Party for the banking crisis and not the Coalition’s friends, the bankers. Ed Miliband’ s opening question to Cameron asking for an update on how Cameron’s pre general election policy of restricting bank bonuses to £2000 was being implemented was masterly. A massive uppercut that had Cameron reeling.

  • @ EcoJon
    If you think he has the life experience to be a good leader I think you are very deluded. He is a career politician and comes out with all the standard Labour trash. I see no knowledge of life outside the self gartifying circles that those types live in. All he will be is another idealistic Labour leader with no understanding of reality and therfore totaly unable to allow for it. This will lead to them ruining the economy and everybthing else. It is easy to look good when you are running up the credit but the price for that always has to be payed.

  • @Richard

    Well we’re all entitled to our views and time will tell whether any of us are correct. But one thing I am quite clear about is that Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and all the other millionaires in the cabinet don’t have a speck of the life experience faced by the vast bulk of ordinary people in Britain.

    And as for your disdain of ‘self-gratifying circles’ then I am in complete agreement with you and that is why the Clegg and the LibDem opinion poll wipeout is so gratifying because it comes from ordinary people and not the Westminster Village cabal.

  • Given Cameron’s acquiescence over banker bonuses, others will surely be queuing to buy tickets for this gravy train ?

    So, we are told that strong banks are ‘vital to our economic survival’, and ‘rewards should be commensurate with the size of their operations’.

    OK, so if those are the rules of this ball game, then first in the queue for the gravy train tickets will drivers of double decker buses. They will be demanding twice the reward of their colleagues, who drive single decker buses. It would be difficult to argue against the logic of their demands wouldn’t it ?

    Then, what about Hospital Consultants ? Forget ‘economic survival’ …… they will argue that we are all dependent upon them for keeping us alive. They would have a valid point, and we don’t want them fleeing abroad do we ? OK, so Cameron had better capitulate to their demands for a £1,000,000 bonus for every 10 lives saved on the operating table.

    Is it really part of our fairer society that only a rapacious money driven banker from Massachusetts can earn multi-billion pound bonuses ? Largely earned, of course, on the back of taxpayer funded quantitative easing ? The danger of greed is that it is contagious – we all want what our neighbour has.

  • Alex Sabine 13th Jan '11 - 2:42pm

    Sunder, the key point here is that the bank bonus tax was described and presented by Alistair Darling as a one-off.

    He subsequently admitted last autumn that it (a) had failed as a means of changing behaviour and (b) while that meant it raised a lot of money for the Exchequer in 2010, it couldn’t become a permanent tax because highly-paid staff would relocate to New York, Switzerland and Asia, where no similar measures were put in place – or, as Darling put it, they would “find all sorts of imaginative ways of avoiding it in the future”.

    From the luxury of opposition, Labour now claims it would have extended it for another year – which the architect of the supertax admits would have been futile and which would certainly result in a declining yield from the tax over time.

    So the bank payroll tax was either a one-off, or at most could have been extended for one more year – I don’t think even Labour is claiming it could plausibly stay as a permanent tax. By contrast, the coalition’s levy on bank balance sheets (whatever its merits or drawbacks) is explicitly a permanent tax, at least for the duration of this Parliament, which means the cumulative amount raised over the Parliament is higher.

    The argument about whether the bank bonus tax in fact raised £3.5bn or a net £2.3bn is quite technical; the Treasury seems to have assumed that it was more successful in changing behaviour than is widely assumed, and that it reduced the total bonus pool by more than £2bn. If so, then clearly this would have reduced the take from income tax and NI – since the Treasury has been a huge beneficiary from high bank bonuses. This may have been partly offset by higher corporation tax receipts from higher bank profits than would otherwise have been the case, but the net tax yield would have been lower than the headline £3.5bn figure.

    Clearly this involves making assumptions about behavioural responses. The Treasury does this all the time when projecting the cost/yield of its various measures, but this one has to be regarded as particularly speculative.

    So, for the sake of argument, let’s grant that the bank bonus tax raised £3.5bn. If it were to be extended for another year, it is unlikely to raise as much the second time round (as Darling admitted) – but let’s (optimistically) say you could raise another £2.5bn. Unless you are proposing to make it a permanent tax (which I don’t think is Labour policy), then that gives you a total yield of £6bn.

    The bank levy is forecast to raise £1.2bn in 2011-12 and then £2.3bn, £2.5bn and £2.4bn in the subsequent three years, a total of £8.4bn (figures come from the OBR’s latest fiscal forecast).

    So, will the banks pay less tax this year? Less than last year, yes. Less than they would have done if the bank bonus tax were extended for another year? Highly debatable, but let’s give you that one. Less over the Parliament as a whole than under existing policies? Clearly not.

    The only way you can square this is by ‘banking’ the money the coalition will raise from its levy, assuming Labour would have done that anyway (even though it did not propose any new domestic bank levy in its manifesto, whereas the Tories and Lib Dems did), and then adding to that revenue from a bank bonus tax that the man who introduced it said he would not have extended.

  • Just noticed my typo in referring to Diamond’s bonus as ‘multi-billion’. That’s the problem isn’t it, we start to lose count of the noughts !

  • @Alex Sabine

    “Sunder, the key point here is that the bank bonus tax was described and presented by Alistair Darling as a one-off.”

    But today, on the Daily Politics show Alistair confirmed that he believed that now, as this Tory dominated coalition is doing nothing to cut bankers’ bonuses, the bank bonus tax should continue. He said he agreed with Ed Miliband’s policy.

  • And Vince Cable, despite his comments to the Daily Torygraph undercover reporters, still sits there on the front bench, the nuclear weapon in his pocket defused. We thought he was a heresiarch. Turns out he’s not even a heretic.

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 13th Jan '11 - 3:55pm

    “But one thing I am quite clear about is that Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and all the other millionaires in the cabinet don’t have a speck of the life experience faced by the vast bulk of ordinary people in Britain.”

    You’ll be telling us next that a public-school education isn’t character-forming.

  • Alex Sabine 13th Jan '11 - 3:59pm

    @MakC

    “But today, on the Daily Politics show Alistair confirmed that he believed that now, as this Tory dominated coalition is doing nothing to cut bankers’ bonuses, the bank bonus tax should continue. He said he agreed with Ed Miliband’s policy.”

    As opposed to the robust action the last Labour government took over bankers’ pay? Who was it who drew up the contracts that now make it difficult for the coalition to restrain the pay of senior executives in the state-owned banks?

    Darling said he had “no criticism” of Ed Miliband’s policy, while sounding pretty doubtful about its viability… In any case, his original arguments remain valid.

    As I said, “from the luxury of opposition”…

  • Alex Sabine 13th Jan '11 - 4:03pm

    Sorry, I meant to address my last post to MacK, not MakC!

  • @Depressed Ex Lib Dem

    Yea but what grown-up adult would want a character like that 🙂

    It’s not the character effect that’s important – it’s the club and the networking that keeps real power in the hands of a tiny but very wealthy elite – and of course I’m referring to a real public school education and not one of your middle-class aspiring sinkholes – I trust my humour is obvious here – sorry to have to make that point but there are some very depressed people here 🙂 and I don’t think you’re one.

  • Ed The Snapper 14th Jan '11 - 9:26am

    I find it hilarious that people are saying that Ed Milliband has no “life experience” outside of politics. Nor do Cameron or Clegg or most front bench politicians these days. That is part of the problem in modern politics these days; most front benchers come from wealthy backgrounds that even the “middle-class” cannot relate to. Nick Clegg’s appalling appearance on “Desert Island Discs” is priceless listening in this regard. He got skewered by Kirsty Young.

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