PMQs: Wouldn’t you also crack under this sort of pressure?

Here are some quotes from Ed Balls MP from past Prime Minister’s Questions:

No No No No No No No No No No


Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes


Down Down Down Down Down Down Down Down Down


Up Up Up Up Up Up Up Up Up Up

All this mono-syllabic heckling has gone on amidst a variety of facial squirms and gurns and even the exhibition of a wide portfolio of hand signals which have had puzzled observers searching umpiring manuals. This is what David Cameron sees opposite him, week after week, as he tries to answer questions about hundreds of different subjects.

Ed Balls is not an idiot. If he was, he wouldn’t have got under David Cameron’s skin in such a clever way.

It was in answering a question from Lib Dem Stephen Williams that the Prime Minister got on the wrong side of Erskine May:

Stephen Williams (Bristol West) (LD): The coalition Government have restored order and stability to the public finances, and have therefore won us international confidence. Is not now the right time to put renewed effort and vigour into returning growth to the economy, by the Government facilitating and guaranteeing investment in housing and infrastructure?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman is entirely right. I am sure that he welcomes the enterprise zone in Bristol and the support for the animation and television industries. What we need to do, both in Britain and in Europe, is to combine the fiscal deficit reduction that has given us the low interest rates with an active monetary policy, structural reforms to make us competitive, and innovative ways of using our hard-won credibility—[ Interruption. ] Which we would not have if we listened to the muttering idiot sitting opposite me—[ Interruption. ]

Mr Speaker: Order. [ Interruption. ] Order. I am very worried about the health of the Minister of State, Department of Health, the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns), who is so overexcited that he might suffer a relapse. I am a compassionate chap, so I do not want that to happen.

The Prime Minister will please withdraw the word “idiot”. It is unparliamentary. A simple withdrawal will suffice. We are grateful.

The Prime Minister: Of course; I will replace it with, “The man who left us this enormous deficit and this financial crisis.”

The other Lib Dem question of the session came from Julian Huppert:

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): Britain has an excellent track record in scientific research and development, despite historically low levels of funding. For this to continue, and to continue to drive so much economic growth, sustained funding is required. Can the Prime Minister assure me that this will be delivered in this Parliament and the next comprehensive spending review?

The Prime Minister: Obviously, I cannot bind the hands of the next comprehensive spending review, but in this spending review we made an important decision to protect the science budget. It would have been an easy target for reductions, and perhaps we could have spent the money on politically more attractive things, but we decided to take the long-term view and to save the science budget because it is a key part of Britain’s future.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • If they were schoolkids – the teacher would send them outside, or in the old days, make stand in the corner with a dunce’s hat.

  • Speaker ought to be able to say something. He does seem partial at times.

  • Sara Bedford 25th May '12 - 12:54pm

    When politicians complaIn about the behaviour of children and young people, they should remember how they learn by example.

  • Those in power need to have shoulders broad enough to deal with this sort of stuff, without losing it.Cameron clearly needs help with anger management in my view and I cannot recall any other PM conducting himself like Cameron, with personal insults and temper outbursts.
    Maybe the Speaker should concentrate on forcing Cameron to answer the question and not the prepared answers to unasked questions which he trots out every week.

  • I must disagree, Balls is definitely an idiot but that is not the point. Both sides, and Lib Dem MP’s are not immune, heckle whoever is at the dispatch box. It is one reason why our parliament is so badly thought of by the public in general. They all act like a bunch of petulant kids…

    But, and it’s a big one, if you cannot rise above this, and constantly make insulting comments when challenged, do you actually have the right temperament to be Prime Minister ?

    To my mind they should be made to act like adults, questions should be pre-screened to take out the whips placements, and the PM must be made to give an answer to the actual question asked, PMQ’s can then fulfil it’s role of holding the executive to account….

  • Another Tory love-in

    Perhaps you could ask why the PM never answers a question, resorts to insults of various members (including his own side)

  • Caracatus25th May ’12 – 11:04am…………..The speaker, who porports to be concerned about these things should name Ed Balls and expell him from the chamber. As the post makes clear, this goes on week after week. In the spirit of the Daily Mail, if anyone else did this they get an abso. It would be harressment in any other work place. It is incredibly rude, disrespectful to the office of Prime Minister………….

    Would this be the same Prime Minister who regularly uses sexist, ageist and insulting language which would, in any other workplace be deemed harassment. Perhaps, Caracatus (and Paul), you might remember the old adage about “glasshouses and stones”

  • Paul McKeown 25th May '12 - 8:58pm

    I watched TWIP last night, the talking heads were of one mind, that Cameron does not look statesmanlike when he loses his temper. That may well be, but I suspect that from now on, every time people hear Ed Balls speak, they are immediately going to think “muttering idiot” and not pay any attention to what he says. It could well stick.

    I thought Ed Balls was good as Sec. of State for Children, he clearly cared. I didn’t warm to Michael Gove when he waved the children’s cookbook around in the HoC. I also thought EB caught the public mood when he fired Sharon Shoesmith on the spot, even if the government later lost its case in the courts and had to pay compensation, but the point had been made. For the rest, though, the man clearly prefers getting under people’s skins to any form of constructive engagement. Muttering idiot seems apt.

  • Paul McKeown 25th May '12 - 9:00pm

    I have to say though, from the clip I have seen, Bercow seemed hardly able to suppress an enormous grin. Fair enough, beyond the call of duty!

  • I’m on Ed Balls’ side. He exposes the true Flashman for the Nation.

  • Caracatus introduces a new order – the “abso”.

    Is this an “anti blathering xxx order”?

  • Cllr Colin Strong 27th May '12 - 12:44pm

    The “abso”
    The “anti blathering supression order”
    Very useful for the House of Commons and for the classroom.

  • David Pollard

    Why are you so keen to support Cameron? Balls is a dud but surely the PM should be above this. Perhaps Cameron should actually try to answer some questions and stop insulting other members then perhaps he would have a point.

    Also, the link above suggests it is not only the Labour Party is carrying on like this.

    If I was to make a suggestion for PMQ it would be for Miliband to refuse to ask a question seeing the PM never answers them.

    You really should stop being apologists for the Tory PM you know

  • All the apologists for Cameron over PMQs might do well to consider Cameron’s ‘protective wall of sound’ at PMQs ……….. The full extent of Tory planning for PMQs has been revealed in a secret email which encourages MPs to barrack Ed Miliband…
    It rather puts ‘muttering’ Balls’s antics in the shade.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 28th May '12 - 10:50am

    Perhaps the real delusion here is that Prime Minister’s questions can ever be used for effective questioning of the Prime Minister. If you want true accounability thinking that it will be achieved in a theatre with 600 participants, most of whom cannot ask proper supplementary questions, is naivety in the extreme. Proper questioning by select committees is probably the route to go down if you want something sensible – or even put the Prime Minister in front of 10 selected MPs twice a week.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 3rd Jun '12 - 3:00pm

    @Tom Southern “Are you actually criticising Ed Balls?”
    No. The “under his skin” comment was meant as a high compliment…….actually.

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