Archive for ‘PMQS’

February 2, 2011

I agree with Ed/I agree with David

Do not readjust your television sets, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are actually having a civilised discussion about the important issues of the day. Flanked by new Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, Ed Miliband led off by giving a moving comment on his recent visit to Afghanistan, before asking a couple of questions on developments in Egypt. Cameron replied in kind – informative, cordial, consensual. It was all rather different to the normal nonsense, and all the better for it.

As Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband was ensuring the British government was playing a key role in supporting democracy, and protecting its citizens abroad in a time of crisis. He was also showing support for British troops, and tough British government decisions. Ed Miliband joked that he appreciated that this was a rather different PMQs. Well, quite. The world situation is rather different at the moment.

Bizarrely some people feel that this isn’t doing his job, and he should have provided another identikit performance on cuts and the economy. They might like to note that for the first time Ed Miliband looked like a leader, a Prime Minister, and a statesman. In fact, he looked rather a lot like his brother. The civility was only broken a couple of times, once for Cameron to remind everyone about Ed Ball’s ridiculous claim that the previous Labour Government didn’t leave a structural deficit, and right at the end when Barry Sheerman asked about the selling off of public forests.

PMQs has become increasingly dull and staged, with nobody learning  anything about any policy or decision. Far from holding the government to account, it discredits UK politics on a weekly basis. The PM and Leader of the Opposition do not have to agree, but their debates must be constructive. It would be great if this week marked a change in how PMQs was done, but VN reckons the bored backbenchers might have something to say about that.

January 26, 2011

Spotlight turns on Brown’s two henchmen


Ed Balls in Q&A on educationImage by Downing Street via Flickr

Ed Miliband was today flanked by his new Shadow Chancellor in Prime Minister’s Questions, giving Cameron ample opportunity to test out the Government’s remixed attack of tying the two Ed’s to their Brown past, and his disastrous economic legacy.

CBI annual conference 2010Image by The CBI via Flickr
Perhaps it was Miliband’s fault. His fast question asked who was to blame for the bad GDP figures, which instigated much pointing at Ed Balls and cries of ‘you’ from the coalition. Time and time again though the Prime Minister mentioned the Eds and their previous job. He is painting them as ‘Brown’s two henchmen in the Treasury,’ directly responsible for the deficit that the Government inherited, and the subsequent cuts it has caused.

The Brown mud might just stick.

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January 12, 2011

>PMQs gets personal

>PMQs was a rather spiteful affair this week. David Cameron came up with two of the most damning lines to describe Ed: “He was the nothing man at the treasury, and now he is the nothing man trying to lead the Labour party”, and VN’s favourite on Alan Johnson advising on banker’s bonuses: “There’s no point Wallace asking Gromit on that one”, but Ed didn’t perform badly. It was though quite a hollow affair, partly due to the predictable questions from the Leader of the Opposition, and partly due to the lack of substance in the answers given in return.

Clearly the Coalition are getting a bit fed up of cheap pops about so-called ‘broken promises’. When Angus Robertson of the SNP tried the trick asking about tuition fees and bankers bonuses, Cameron snapped back, referring to “an SNP that promised a referendum on full independence and never gave it?”

There were also some fairly testing questions from Conservative backbenchers, including one on the promised fuel stabiliser. These serve to demonstrate the increasing tension those Member’s have towards the coalition. Like their Liberal Democrat counterparts, Tory backbenchers are beginning to feel a little sidelined, and are increasingly prepared to show their discontent in high profile occasions such as PMQs.

Cameron also hinted heavily at a compromise on Control Orders, praising the police and secret services in the process. In answer to another question, he gave a backhanded warning to the Unions threatening prolonged strikes by hinting he could impose a rule that 50% of members must support strike action.

The Prime Minister is clearly comfortable with these confrontations but, after a very impressive start, is beginning to rely too much on witty one liners and question dodging. If he engaged Ed Miliband on substance he could win the exchanges outright very easily, exposing the lack of policy Labour have at the moment. Instead, the playground politics trundled on into 2011.

December 1, 2010

>PMQs – who’s your daddy?!

>VN towers was spared the nonsense of PMQs this week, however, we have been alerted to a rather odd exchange between Red Ed and Cameron:

Ed accused Cam of being ‘a child of Thatcher’ to which the PM apparently replied: ‘I’d rather be a child of Thatcher than a son of Brown’.

Now multiple Lib Dems seem to be gleefully claiming Lord Paddy Ashdown as their father,which is nice. Let’s be honest, if there is one many who could father an entire generation it would be Paddy….

November 17, 2010

>Another boring PMQs let down

>Harriet Harman returned to face David Cameron in PMQs this week, as Ed Miliband is off on paternity leave. She, fairly successfully, took a line on cuts to policing. Looking passed the fact that Labour would have made Home Office cuts, she backed Cameron into a corner from which he failed to give a straight numbers answer. That said he did have the last laugh when she got personal with him over the photographer/videographer, rattling off a list of far more inappropriate Labour appointees….including Alistair Campbell. Covered by parliamentary privilege, (take note of its application Messrs. Chaytor et al,) he reiterated accusations that Campbell ‘sexed up’ the Iraq War dossier. 

Overall a pretty dull affair. No questions, no answers, and a slightly hysterical Mr. Speaker shouting down the Prime Minister in full flow. Don’t you just love democracy?

October 27, 2010

>The beast gets prodded at PMQs

>It was always going to happen. Having proved he is not utterly useless in his first performances, Ed Miliband received the wrath of Prime Minister David Cameron today at Prime Ministers Questions. Having jumped enthusiastically to his feet to slam the Government on cutting peoples’ jobs, the PM calmly reeled off a letter in the Times giving advice to Ed on how to deal with the hornets nest of PMQs. It turned out Ed had followed the advice entirely, and the cheers soon died in in the throats of the baying Labour MPs behind him. Cameron finished off the Leader of the Opposition by declaring he ‘might have a plan for PMQs, but he doesn’t have one for the economy’, before dismissing him as having ‘nothing to say’. Ed may not have been as bad as we all thought, but he still has much to learn.

The questions from the backbenchers revealed little new, with Labour MPs picking examples of cuts from their constituencies, and Cameron reiterating that the Government are making ‘difficult decisions’. It was pleasing that Dr Julian Huppert reiterated the priority of restoring civil liberties. The two rows clearly brewing are those on housing benefit, with Lib Dems Simon Hughes and Bob Russell particularly unhappy, and defence spending in Scotland, with the SNP leading the charge. The latter has the possibility of being more damaging with upcoming elections in Scotland.

Labour’s leaked memo about the cuts, and positive growth figures  were Cameron’s aces today, but so was the fact that both the Leader of the Opposition and the Labour backbenchers refuse to give an alternative. Until they do so, Cameron’s facts and figures will continue to edge out Ed Miliband’s rhetoric.

October 13, 2010

>Ed Miliband needs to offer more than a quiet Cameron impression

>Participant’s in Prime Minister’s questions are frequently, and rightly, criticised for their confrontational approach. This came to a horrible head today when Labour politician Chris Ruane chose to honour Claire Rayner’s memory with ghost noises. His green looking leader had earlier decided to take a more mature approach to proceedings and, having succeeded in not vomiting on the dispatch box, took centre stage. He was quiet, monotonic, boring, but not a complete disaster. 

Miliband took a mature and commendable approach to the failed attempt to rescue aid worker Linda Norgrove, rightly pointing out her death was the fault of those that captured her, not those that tried to save her. However, he looked lame on child benefit changes, becoming the first Labour leader to demand benefit payments for the well off. He then proceeded to lift a play right out of the Cameron book: ‘That’s 0 for 2 on straight answers, Mr Speaker’. It was a quiet, pale imitation of the now Prime Minister, who struck back with a far more devastating appraisal of the early part of Miliband’s leadership:  ‘It’s not red, it’s brown.’

Cameron though was by no means at his best today. He was rusty after the conference season break, and seemed to be lacking the bit of spark that has made him generally successful on a Wednesday lunchtime. Perhaps he and his team underestimated Ed Miliband too greatly. Miliband’s strategy is not though viable in the long term. He needs to define who he is, not proceed with a toned down impression of Cameron. Today the Leader of the Opposition went punch for punch with the PM, scoring points along the way. While Miliband can certainly feel happy with his PMQs debut, he may though have only succeeded in waking up Cameron for round two. 

July 21, 2010

>Taxi for Jack Straw

>For the first time since 1922 a Liberal Democrat leader answered the questions at Prime Minister’s Questions. It was a strong, if not Earth shattering, performance from Nick Clegg, but he easily out did his Labour opponent Jack Straw.

Rightly and widely respected, VN expected more from Jack Straw. Today though he muttered, stumbled and looked well past his sell by date. The questions on Forgemasters were predictible and irrelevant, the attempts to drive a wedge between the Coalition highlighted an immaturity that is all too common on the Labour benches. Bring on the memoirs…

By the end Nick Clegg was in full flow. Defending the Coalition, attacking Labour’s record of illiberalism, and restating the Government’s determination to remove troops from Afghanistan. It wasn’t as good as ‘that’ debate performance, he needs to get more succinct for next time, but the natural delivery style and confidence where in evidence once again.

The other thing to note was the shambles that Speaker Bercow presided over. Bercow resorted to shouting people down, and was not in control of the back benches. He even forgot how many questions Straw had asked, although perhaps he can be forgive for that!

Final score:
Clegg 6 Straw 2 Bercow 1

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