Coffee House

PMQs sketch: Miliband gives up on Songs of Dispraise and attacks Cameron on competence

24 October 2012

4:10 PM

24 October 2012

4:10 PM

Goodness, he’s enjoying himself. Ed Miliband is brimful of confidence these days and he handles himself like a master juggler at PMQs. He flicks out deft gags and acerbic asides while keeping the central question in the air. He’s having fun. And it’s a pleasure to watch.

Greatly helpful to him is the government’s pledge to deliver at least one major and one minor cock-up every week. Last Wednesday it was Cameron’s improvised announcement that energy companies must give customers the lowest tariff. Today he tried to explain this. ‘There were 400 different energy tariffs last year,’ the PM told the Commons. ‘That’s totally baffling.’

‘The only people baffled,’ said Miliband. ‘were his ministers last week.’ Cameron countered that Miliband had presided over contradictory policies when he served as Gordon Brown’s energy secretary. Miliband was ready for him. He claimed to have cut our bills by £110 when he was in power.

His attack on Cameron culminated in a specifically worded charge. ‘He doesn’t do the detail. He made up the policy. And he got caught out.’ It’s no coincidence that this line also applies to George Osborne’s botched travel arrangements.

Miliband wanted to know when ministers first knew about the flaws in the bidding process for the West Coast franchise. And he included a cutting reference to Justine Greening, sacked from Transport and shunted to a less congenial brief at International Development. ‘She doesn’t even want the job,’ said Miliband. And Cameron offered no substantial response to the question about the West Coast bid. Miliband made merry again.


‘Even he is taking his habit of not answering questions to a new level,’ he crowed.

Then he dished it out to the Chancellor who was caught last week sneaking into a First Class carriage bearing a ticket for the goods wagon.

‘It’s not the ticket that needs an upgrade, it’s the chancellor.’

Osborne, sitting on the front bench, was keen to show his disdain for this prepared jibe but he didn’t know how to. His bloodless cheeks quivered, his small eyes narrowed and his thin, curling lips formed themselves into an amused scowl. For a moment, he looked like Marie Antoinette watching a few bears eating a serf. If he works on this impersonation he’ll be able entertain staff with it at the World Bank when he takes over after 2015.

Miliband is refining his tactics. He’s given up his Songs of Dispraise about the ‘same old Tories’ and their ‘out of touch’ and ‘arrogant’ attitudes. Now he focuses on competence. And, with the government fulfilling its self-imposed quota of one-and-a-half disasters per week, he’ll continue to pin the blame on the PM.

Cameron too has a fresh line. Today he painted Miliband as a defeat-junkie who wants to wake up every morning to more news of economic failure. If recovery arrives, this tactic may prosper.

No PMQs would be complete without Cameron losing his rag. Keen to whip his backbenchers into a righteous frenzy, he began to honk out a list of statistics that are moving in the right direction. ‘Crime down!’ he bellowed. ‘Inflation down! Unemployment, down! Waiting lists down!’ But instead of relishing these figures he allowed his cheeks to flush purple with indignation and excitement. ‘The opposition leader can’t talk about the real issues,’ he thundered, ‘because he’s not up to the job.’

‘Good to see the crimson tide is back,’ said Miliband coolly.

The session ended on a harmonious as note as the three parties came together to gloat over the hallucinations of Alec Salmond. The SNP leader has been caught talking to imaginary lawyers about Scotland’s future within the EU. Like all paranoiacs, he believes he was talking to real human beings and not to figments of his fevered brain. It’ll be easy to find out. Even a fake lawyer can’t submit a real invoice.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • sunnydayrider

    Mr. Evans, your wrong! Milliband comes across as nothing more than a ‘Private Pike.’ Sure, he should give the government a kicking but please, grow up Ed. A little more substance, a bit more mature humour, a bit more ‘I could be PM one day.’ Constantly honking ‘nah nah na hah nah’ throughout his act ain’t going to cut it if he wants to raise the Red Flag over No. 10. Right now he most definetely isn’t PM material, but I conceed he does the best impression of the late Bernie Winters (remember him?) I’ve ever seen. Stupid Boy!

  • realfish

    Such fun Lloyd. But when do your jottings cross the line from a bit of ‘knock-about’ to a bit of dishonesty (Then he dished it out to the Chancellor who was caught last week sneaking into a First Class carriage bearing a ticket for the goods wagon).
    Sorry if I have missed the point. Given your stated affection for Mr Milibandwagon, I realise now that you might of course have been ironic…or auditioning for a gig on the News Quiz

  • KP

    Why is it called Prime Ministers Questions, when he doesn`t answer any. Its` like watching the Westminster version of “Tool Academy”

  • Deepsnoozer

    Todays PMQ’s was the worst performance by a Prime Minister i think i’ve ever seen! Miliband wiped the floor with him..

  • HooksLaw

    Miliband can talk about a ‘crimson tide’? Yet when the PM says ‘calm down dear’ they are the ones going purple with rage.

    OK to be personal with tories but oh dear me no, its not the same to laugh at sour faced labour ladies.

    Another fine example of Miliband hypocrisy.

    • toni

      Back in your den Trevor and stop defending the personal and regular insults the PM aims at Miliband at every opportunity and at PMQ’s particularly. He deserved a response, and at long last he got it, straight to his red face. Serves him right.

      The “calm down dear” was a patronising and sexist comment Cameron made to a woman.
      He’s got form on that too as Nadine will verify.
      I’m sure she appreciated his gentlemanly bravery of sending her a texted apology. Allegedly.

    • Amergin Selby

      What a masterly piece of spin. Taking the PM’s loss of temper and turning it into Miliband hypocrisy. Brilliant but revealing a deep bias.
      Could do better.

  • HooksLaw

    This time tomorrow it will be forgotten. The news only had the prisoner vote issue.

    PMQs are overstated.

  • Dogsnob


  • Dogsnob

    Is anyone else amazed and irritated, firstly that this ridiculous charade still takes place every week in the absence of any attempt to try and improve the nation’s fortune; and secondly that so much media attention is granted it?

    It means nothing. No-one gives a flying shite do they?

    If you agree, then comment here and every time PMQ is mentioned:

    ‘MEANS NOTHING’ See if it flies.

  • Adrian Drummond

    His performances at PMQ’s remind me of William Hague.

  • dorothy wilson

    Milliminor may be “brimful of confidence” but he should remember pride comes before a fall. He is starting to come over as a really nasty piece of work.

    He is also trying to airbrush out all the many shambles that occurred when Labour were in power. They started with Brown destroying independent pensions and selling our gold at rock bottom prices.

    And as far as his jibes over the rail franchise are concerned, I seem to remember a debacle over Railtrack and that, when the report of the independent risk assessors landed on Stephen Byers’ desk, his only option was to resign. I gather one of the key problems was that there had been major errors in the calculation of the project man days. And what about the major overruns, costing £millions, on computer projects?

    And are we really supposed to forget the misleading of parliament over the WMDs? And there was the horrendous way in which Labour handled the foot & mouth crisis.

    Bad as those were they pale at the side of the massive problems Labour caused with the supposed “boom”, which turned out to be built on debt, and the dereliction of duty within the Brown’s Treasury that allowed the banking crisis to develop.

    All that said, the Conservatives are missing so many tricks in not communicating all of this. They really do need to get their communications sorted out.

    • L’Arse

      Meanwhile, back in 1997, Dorothy Wilson complains, ‘Blair may be brimful of confidence, but he should remember… the Miner’s Strike, In Place of Strife, the Pound in Your Pocket, etc, etc…

      • James

        Given the mileage Blair got out of Black Wednesday (like he’d have done anything different given his EU sucking up), that’s a bit rich

    • toni

      If you insist on reminiscing – the cones hot line, brown envelopes, polltax riots, destruction of the mines and associated businesses and communities, poisonous eggs, privatising at a masive loss the railways (what a triumph) the utilities (that went well)
      WMD? Tories voted for it.
      Foot and mouth? Farmers caused it.
      Boom? Tories loved it.
      Good grief – set yourself up as a tory cheerleader?
      Back to basics for you Missis.

    • telemachus

      A nasty piece of work- eh
      You were the folk who said he was too nice and too bland

  • Fergus Pickering

    Yeah. With friends like L’Arse… I expect there’s a job at the Beeb wit your name on it….

    • L’Arse

      I appreciate good writing, that’s all – there’s never enough about (and none whatsoever at the Beeb, The Thick of It excepted).

      • will

        shame that the ratings of your favorite lefty BBC program are going down the tubes. Even the arrogant BBC may pause before commissioning a further series that will be watched by so few

  • L’Arse

    What a brilliant sketch – more please!