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PMQs: A points draw amidst chuntering, Morrissey and Mornington Crescent fun

Vince Cable lined up as a “bookend” for the Prime Minister at his question time today. One had a feeling, then, that university funding would be high on the agenda. And so it was.

In the first section of Q&A (with Ed Miliband) I think Miliband edged a points win – perhaps in decimal places. A “Rizla” win – a fag paper’s width between them.

Cameron failed to pick up Miliband on some obvious points. The opposition leader referred to English students likely to have the “highest tuition fees” in the world. But presumably that involves a comparison with tuition fees paid during study in other countries – rather than after graduation as in the case of the government’s proposals, which suggest “graduate contributions” rather than fees.
Miliband also referred to the system causing debt for graduates, but the system really can’t be described as instilling “debt” in the conventional sense. Cameron missed that one also.

In fact, Cameron only seemed to be warming up with Miliband but went on to score some corkers when Labour backbenchers asked further university funding questions.

Quite rightly Miliband highlighted the “80% cut” figure. He seemed more on top of his game this week and made an excellent joke:

Things are so bad that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (John Hemming) is offering his own unique solution to the votes tomorrow. He says that if you run quickly, you can vote both ways. I have to say that if the Kremlin were spying on the Liberal Democrats, we would know why: they want a bit of light relief.

Miliband quoted back David Davis on social mobility and the university funding plans. He also quoted back Cameron from last week “not so much waving but drowning”.

Cameron then gained a bit of composure with this rally (yes, it’s like tennis):

We are introducing a situation where nobody pays fees up front, including part-time students—which is 40% of students—and nobody pays anything back until they are earning £21,000. Under the new system, everyone will pay back less than they pay under the current system—They will pay back less every month; that is the case. The poorest will pay less, the richest will pay more. It is a progressive system, but the right hon. Gentleman has not got the courage of his convictions to back it.

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