Oh dear. Miliband was all set to give Cameron an almighty hammering at today’s PMQs, but Maria Miller’s resignation blew up his ammunition dump.
Mr Bercow rose at the start and begged everyone to ‘show a good example’ as there were ‘children present.’ Indeed there were. All across the green benches.
The Miller saga has given us seven days of unseemly viewing. The family is gathered at the bedside of a rich but ailing matriarch. All are affecting tragic expressions while smirking behind their unwetted handkerchiefs and mentally calculating their gains. But the biggest loser was Miliband.
He wanted to turn Miller’s capsize into a character issue. He said the PM had made an ‘error of judgement’ that had ‘undermined trust’. He also tried to get Cameron to admit that Miller had, technically, resigned for the sin of being found innocent.
This hardly taxed the PM. He painted himself as a wise and cautious father-figure who had accepted Miller’s parting with regret. He congratulated himself on showing leadership not weakness. And he made a joke. He said Miliband was tying himself in knots by suggesting that a minister should resign, after she’d resigned, when he’d omitted to suggest she should resign before she’d resigned. If you can call that a joke.
Miliband: ‘Now I’ve heard it all. It’s my job to fire members of his Cabinet?’
That’s how close he got to damaging Cameron. Miles away.
Two bungling backbenchers, both Labour, tried to skim extra profits from the Miller dividend. Andrew Slaughter, using the most blunt and guileless terms imaginable, demanded to know if Humpty had jumped or been pushed. Jenny Chapman raised the same point. Honestly. Did they think Cameron was about to give a detailed account of the back-stage dagger-work?
‘Yes, it’s a fair question. Here’s what happened. The Culture Secretary was desperate to keep her job until we threatened to put her on I’m a Celebrity, and at that point she resigned immediately.’
Miliband can console himself with the teeniest of victories. He denied Cameron the chance to use all six of his replies to boast about the Boy George boom. That fell to Cameron’s lobby fodder.
The Tory backbench congregation has developed a song-and-dance routine around the mantras of Lynton Crosby. Some little-known Conservative will stand up and jabber the words, ‘our long-term economic plan’. And the rest of the chimps will howl with glee. It happens about five times per PMQs. It’s got nothing to do with governance but it keeps the inmates entertained. So, politics at its most characteristic.
David Nuttall broke with tradition and asked a witty question. Rare event! He invited the PM to read a new essay about our departure from the EU, and he asked if the Brexit might form ‘part of our long-term economic plan.’
How the primates whooped at that. Cameron agreed to add the Brexit tract to his Easter reading options – along with Nadine Dorries’s novel.
Is that significant? You bet. He has no reason on earth to plug a book by one of his bitterest foes. It’s like he doesn’t give a damn any more. Off he swanned at the end of the session without a care in the world.
For Labour this gets worse and worse. No Easter choccies for their starving troops.
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