PMQs: You can’t gesticulate your way out of a Balls-up

He still looks like a clever sixth former to me, but it is fair to say that Ed Miliband has cracked Prime Minister’s Questions. His performance this week was excellent.

“Just a bit late” was David Cameron’s description of Miliband’s raising of the Fox affair. It is easy to understand why Miliband did not raise the subject last week. Labour played a canny game with Dr Fox. They did not call for his resignation and at the last PMQs, Miliband did not ask directly about the issue. This allowed Dr Fox to swing in the media wind, without obvious Labour encouragement. If they had been more vocal on the subject, Fox could have garnered more sympathy.

Indeed, that Labour tactic was rather similar to Cameron’s own tactic of giving Dr Fox enough rope to hang himself.

And it is right that Miliband raised this important subject this week. What else is Prime Minister’s Questions for?

Later, Miliband made good capital over the latest inflation rise and the apparent failure of the Regional Growth Fund, which he said has only helped two businesses in 16 months.Cameron replied with his usual tranche of statistics and an accusation that:

The right hon. Gentleman’s plan is to add £23 billion to Britain’s deficit this year, and almost £100 billion to our deficit by the end of the Parliament.

This then brought on a protracted series of gesticulations from Ed Balls, who Cameron blamed for the mess left by Labour. For a moment it seemed that PMQs was Cameron v Balls, rather than Cameron v Miliband.It’s not the first time that has happened.

LibDem question watch:

Martin Horwood mentioned that Cheltenham Borough Council is building the first council housing in 20 years and asked Cameron about the danger that the planning reforms will render such councils “powerless” to defend green spaces on the urban fringe. Cameron said that the government will not make changes to green belt or other protections.

John Pugh highlighted the “huge savings” made, without legislation, by the Cabinet Office.

Adrian Sanders asked about the fear of insulin-dependent diabetics that they will lose their driving licences.

Panoply of subjects watch:

Very often, most people who see or read of PMQs only know about the Cameron v Miliband exchange. However, the questions from backbench MPs cover a very wide range of subjects each week. It’s amazing that your average Prime Minister can give coherent answers to all of them. To give a flavour of this, here’s a list of the subjects raised this week which are not covered above:

-The Jarrow march anniversary
-Ocean research
-The economy
-The case of Pat Finucane
-The Hillsborough disaster
-National Heroes Day
-Nottingham Police and a domestic violence case
-College enrolments/EMA
-The Big Six energy companies
-Carbon capture and storage
-Knife offences (twice)
-Referendum on EU (People are “crying out” for one apparently)
-MOD Honours
-Devolution of Air Passenger Duty
-Federation of public and state schools
-Emergency services in Greater Manchester
-Regional Growth fund investment in David Brown, Lockwood
-The “Giving Voice” campaign
-Adam Werritty
-Think Tank transparency

Paul Walter blogs at Liberal Burblings

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This entry was posted in News, Parliament and PMQs.


  • A comfortable win for Ed Miliband. It was absolutely right for him to ask questions about Fox this week rather than last week when Cameron would only have told Ed to wait for the report by GOD. Cameron is clearly a man under siege. Now, to his right wing’s disgust, he is forced to face both ways at once over the Referendum on Europe motion. This Tory led coalition has strong evanescences of Major’s last Tory government: mired in sleaze, an imploding economy, massive unemployment and breaking its back over Europe. A recent Populus/Times poll puts the Liberal Democrats at 8% . Why on earth do good Europeans like the Lib Dems continue to shore up the jingostic English nationalists who only want to take from Europe and give nothing in return and who wish to “re-negotiate” the terms of EEC membership to avoid all those annoying restrictions on businesses such as paid holidays and maternity leave?

  • Spelling correction: “jingoistic”

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