Coffee House

PMQs sketch: Cameron and Miliband’s merry slanders

16 January 2013

4:17 PM

16 January 2013

4:17 PM

It was written in the faces at PMQs today. Ed Miliband seemed relaxed and happy as he exploited Tory splits ahead of Cameron’s Euro-address on Friday. The PM looked irritable and resigned, like a long-distance hiker whose brand new Timberlands have started chafing just a few yards from his starting point.

His conundrum is simple. Until he recommends carpet-bombing Brussels he’ll never placate the Euro-bashers. And his hope for renegotiation, even at its most conciliatory, will only inflame their escapological instincts.

Miliband asked if Britain would still be an EU member in five years’ time. Cameron kept his crystal ball hidden. ‘The UK is better off in Europe,’ he said. And with the Eurozone in turmoil, he argued that we should fix a better deal for ourselves while the rest aren’t looking. But his desire to ‘strengthen our relationship with the EU’ won’t please the Houdinis who want to get out. And he predicts that other member-states will fight like tigers to grab the best deal for themselves too. Oh blimey. A 27-man Euro-scrap is in prospect. This will not be pretty. Or cheap. And it could take ages. Like half a century.

The best Cameron could do was chide Miliband for making jokes instead of making choices. And Miliband mocked him back for ignoring unemployment and spending six months writing a speech that would create confusion for five years.


They finished by exchanging a few merry slanders. Cameron floated the scare-story that Labour will campaign for membership of the Euro in its next manifesto. Fat chance. Ed Balls hates the single currency because it deprives finance ministers of an opportunity to play with their trains. And Miliband accused Cameron of wanting to hang ‘a closed for business’ sign around Britain’s economy for the next five years. Equally untrue. Commerce will continue irrespective of the EU. And the only portion of our trade that depends solely on Brussels is the deluxe hospitality sector that accommodates visiting MEPs and their coteries of paper-shufflers and rule-book writers.

The house then took a quick detour into Labour’s opium-den: class war.

Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham, asked one of those tricky ultra-short questions. ‘When is the prime minister going to visit a food bank?’ Curt phrasing is only part of the tactic. The placing of the key word at the end of the sentence cuts the response-time to a couple of seconds.

But Labour spoiled it. They heckled even before Cameron had opened his mouth and this gave him a moment to collect himself. He let his pointy features assume an injured look. Then he sniffed that it was unfair ‘to use this as a political weapon against me.’ Labour, he said, had fostered a food-bank boom while in office and ensured that reliance on free grub soared tenfold. ‘It started with them!’ he cried.

Dan Jarvis, an angry army veteran, raised the issue of death-rates among the over-75s. He urged Cameron ‘to do more to help the elderly and less for millionaires’. This created a poignant vignette of the prime minister smirking as pensioners succumb to hypothermia while oligarchs flip through yacht brochures and decide what luxuries to blow their tax-rebates on.

Then we returned to reality. And to Europe. Margaret Ritchie warned Cameron against making ‘a populist speech’ that would dismay the Americans, alienate the Europeans, and ‘start a process that sleep-walks Britain out of the EU.’ Most sceptics would cheer every word of that. Except the ‘sleepwalk’ bit. The Houdinis want to be wide awake when, and if, the UK breaks free. And not walking but jigging for joy.

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Show comments
  • Tim Reed

    “The PM looked irritable and resigned…”

    For a moment there you raised my spirits.

  • Fergus Pickering

    Evans, no-one wants to know what you think. report what goes on and keep your houdinis to yourself. Are you an old Beeb hand who thinks all Eurosceptics are barking? That won’t wash nwh, so keep quiet and earn your crust.

    • Ninth Legion

      If you don’t want to know what Lloyd Evans thinks, then why read his excellent piece? Of course all Eurosceptics are barking – no-one ever thought otherwise. “Rule Britannia” – let’s hear it for all those Little Xenophobic Englanders out there…….!

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham, has very odd priorities.

    She is a Labour automaton supporting the practices and values that allow Pakistani muslims free range on her youngest constituents, and yet remove children from law abiding, but thought crime committing, UKIP supporters. If she resembled anything like a human being she would devote her time to getting the Augean stable of sh!te that is Rotherham Social Services cleaned out and its Commisars hung from gibbets.

    No wonder so many politicians are utterly despised.

    • telemachus

      As noted 2 posts back we need to protect the young from Ukip for their own good
      In these times of economic crisis, and political uncertainty voters who are dissatisfied with the mainstream parties turn to those on the fringes. David Cameron, struggling with the economy and unpopularity is bleeding votes to UKIP. They have now overtaken the Lib Dems place to third in the polls. Even my own father, to my horror, declared to me the other day that having voted Conservative in 2010, he intends to vote for UKIP in 2015. For the Tories it is a huge problem. Their votes are being leached away by the party, and to keep them they will be forced to shift further to the right on the issue of Europe.

      If UKIP got their way and we ever left the European Union, it would be a great shame. The move would send completely the wrong message to our allies in Europe. To solve the Eurozone crisis, we need greater levels of cooperation and interdependence. What rises and falls in the German and French economies effectively determines the fate of ours; so we really are all in this together whether we like it or not.

      • Hexhamgeezer

        you funny

        • fubar_saunders

          for a left wing troll

      • Hexhamgeezer

        You have stretched credulity too far this time. ‘Even my own father’? Like you know who it is – and that it would acknowledge you?

  • EJ

    This is all very jolly but to those outside the Westminster bubble it comes across as nothing more than fannying about while the seriousness of the situation gets worse by the day.

    Unless the Conservatives take radical conservative action on the key issues – particularly the EU and immigration – they will be out on their ear in 2015 and pure demographics will ensure that it will never be possible to get right of centre government in this country ever again.

    The nicey nicey Tories have made no friends on The Left, and they are losing their core support on The Right. Meanwhile Third Worlders continue pouring into the country and we’re about to let in no one knows how many hundreds of thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians. One thing’s for sure – they won’t be voting Tory!

  • 2trueblue

    I think we watched a different programme. Balls ooked very uncomfortable most of the time and that was more interesting. Millipede did not get any real punches. It was under his government that food banks came into being, child poverty grew under them, and these are facts that no one seems to mention. Look back and despite the froth, borrowing was what it was all about, and we know where that led.

  • Roger Vernon

    Cameron has no idea what to do about the E.U. question.

    Milliband is fence sitting.

    Clegg is Europhile to his yellow belly