Coffee House

Complacent Cameron slips on Miliband’s bananas

7 May 2014

4:51 PM

7 May 2014

4:51 PM

Easy triumphs soften victors. Cameron demonstrated this truism today as he took two unexpected blows from Ed Miliband at PMQs. The Labour leader led on his new policy of rent controls. Cameron, rather weakly, seemed amenable to the reform but offered no concrete proposals of his own. Miliband struck.

‘That was a pretty quick U-turn, even for him.’

Miliband then asked about the preparations to surrender AstraZeneca, trussed and bound, to Pfizer – with all the attendant risks to jobs and investment.

Cameron flushed as red as a rhubarb crumble and accused Miliband of ‘playing politics’ while the government was ‘getting stuck in’ and defending the national interest.


What irked him was that the Pfizerisation of AstraZeneca has become yet another area where Miliband poses as a popular champion. Labour presents itself as the plucky foe of Big Pharma, while the government fiddles at the margins or connives with the fatcats.

Same with rent controls.

Miliband’s reforms sound reasonable and modest: extend tenancies from one year to three. Make rent rises predictable not arbitrary. Result: nine million home-renters benefit.

Cameron gave the impression that he endorsed this reform by claiming that the proposal had been aired at last year’s Tory conference. (So why keep it quiet till now?). But he couldn’t pledge his definitive support. Instead he spoon-fed candy floss to his backbenchers by joking that Labour policies were ‘for rent’ by Unite. And he quoted some contradictory noises-off by ill-briefed Labour MPs. But that didn’t alter the fact that Cameron seemed too ready to underestimate his opponent today. And his performance was misfiring badly. Slapdash on rent controls. Furious on Pfizer.

The ghost of Ukip made a late appearance. Tory whips had cast about for a willing foot soldier to ask Cameron to enlarge on Kippers’ xenophobia. The first name out of the hat belonged to Sir Tony Baldry. As soon as he stood up the blunder was obvious. Sir Tony takes up as much space as three ordinary parliamentarians. And besides having a waistline like a cooling tower, he also has Pink Floyd hair, a foppish lisp and a knighthood. And he wears a three piece suit. Hardly the epitome of progressive modern Toryism. He asserted that Ukip’s policies are based on the fear of foreigners. (You can do the lisps yourself). He ordered us to embrace foreign markets because Britain is ‘a great trading nation’ – another 18th century touch.

Keith Vaz, unwittingly, introduced the same topic. When he got to his feet he received the House’s ritual acknowledgement of his presence: dead silence.

Pudding seemed to be weighing heavily on Vaz’s mind as he complained that a cabal of EU fruit-cakes, the mango quango, have banned imports of Indian arboreal produce to Europe. The crackdown threatens the profits of curry-houses in Leicester, and beyond. And Vaz’s fan-base of restaurateurs fears millions in lost dessert revenues are at risk. Would Cameron bring it up with the leader of India?

Certainly, said Cameron. But what a waste of breath. They’ve picked the wrong honcho. Only the leader of the EU Commission has the authority to reverse an EU ban. And only the leader of Ukip has the desire to do so.

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
  • Lady Magdalene

    So Sir Tony Baldry wants us to embrace foreign markets. He’s obviously too think to understand that that is exactly what UKIP proposes.
    If we were out of the EU we could return to our historic role as a global trading nation.
    In the EU, we are constrained by its in-built protectionism and the chains that bind.

  • 2trueblue

    Where was Millipede when we handed over control of some of our utility companies to foreign control? Oh, he was part of the government that was in power? 13yrs.

  • 2trueblue

    Rent control. Great idea. What a positive effect that will have on the property market.

  • Mc Kenzie

    These gaffes would never have happened if Steve Hilton was still in No 10 – I mean letting Mr Ed get the better of you is really, really sad

  • @PhilKean1

    Socialist Miliband – Vs – Socialist Cameron.

    Both in a race to the bottom.

    One spewing a production line of damaging proposals. And the other, due to a complete absence of instinctive Conservative thought, giving those damaging proposals an undeserved credibility.

    If Cameron is the answer, then we are truly ###### !

    • you_kid

      UKIPs national socialism is that race, mate.
      A mere ‘Continuity UKIP’ after September if I may add, it is obvious why.

      • @PhilKean1

        You seem to a bit upset that UKIP are threatening to end the tripartite Liberal-left’s complete domination of British politics.

        24 years of leftist Governance, and at last there is a political party that has the British peoples’ best interests as their first priority.

        • you_kid

          Leftist governance – you have got to be kidding only yourself.
          Magna Carta Socialists socialised all their losses on the back of the people. When that was still not enough they artificially raised THEIR asset base in the capital centre, not that of the people. Did you have an input in that decision-making? Do you condone it? Is that what you call democratic process? Your governance will come to an end, it has to end as it has no future.

          • @PhilKean1

            Oh, not another one who really believes that it was all the fault of the bankers, and not Labour.

            From 1990 to 2014 – 24 years of corrupt, undemocratic, incompetent, irresponsible, treacherous maladministration from professional politicians who’ve never had a real job.

            The sooner real Conservatives regain control of their party, the sooner they once again become electable.
            And it had better happen soon. The Liberal-left are driving us into the ground.

            • you_kid

              Keep dreaming, lad. Political parties revalued the hard asset base? Political parties manipulated libor, swaps, currency trades, the books, the accounts, the annual reports? You are only kidding yourself, not the you_kids.

              • HookesLaw

                One political party in particular turned a blind eye to regulating the banks and Ed Balls was quite close to the libor scam.

                • you_kid

                  I don’t care. They all are. They created/supported/underwrote/backed the system which is wrong.

                • HookesLaw

                  Indeed a Tory pointed out the deficiencies of Brown’s tripartite regulation system as soon as it was announced.

                • you_kid

                  Gidiot printed twice as much as Broon. Then he printed HTB. Then he printed F4L. Then he lifted the London central asset base by 20%+ since 2013 whilst the rest of the nation continues to stagnate. You haven’t got a clue who/what you are defending.

            • HookesLaw

              Where do you get your loony ideas from.
              For the last 4 years this non left govt has been repairing the damage of 13 years of socialism and berks like you want to hand the country back to them. Thats why you have to dress up your loony toon ideas with your fantasies.

              • @PhilKean1

                You really do have anger issues. I could, but I won’t, give you a long list of things that Cameron and Osborne have done which have not only prolonged the recession, but that will have caused long-term economic damage.

                I am just glad that analysts are coming to realise that real Tories are going to make sure Cameron isn’t going to win a majority in 2015.
                After all, it is Cameron’s choice. All he has to do is to stop insulting our intelligence on the EU problem. But he can’t. He would rather lose the election than stand up for the national interest.

                • HookesLaw

                  You are the professional Mr Angry, railing at and hating everything.

                  Its Cameron that is proposing renegotiation and a referendum.
                  It would be hard to insult anything so minuscule as your intelligence. How thick do you have to be to ignore that and let in a Europhile Labour Party?

                  This govt have done a good job of steering us through the aftermath of the recession and Labour’s scorched earth without any large scale loss of jobs. Indeed we have seen a growth of numbers in work. You can add economic illitercy to your long list of deficiencies.

                • @PhilKean1

                  Here it is – those who support –

                  – Cameron’s renegotiation / referendum reform strategy fall into 4 categories.

                  (1) – Those who are totally committed to staying in the EU

                  (2) – Those loyalists who understand that Cameron’s strategy is, in Portillo’s words – “an insincere ploy”.

                  (3) – Those who – as yet – are unaffected by EU penalisation and so don’t care if we stay in or leave.

                  (4) – Those trusting souls who are unable to think for themselves and who are reliant on the assurances of politicians.

                • Tony_E

                  Politics is the art of the possible. Right now, I’m not sure that a vote to leave could possibly be secured. The establishment has not been reduced enough yet – when the BBC, most of the press and the Labour party (the natural party of government with current demographics and boundaries) is pro Europe, then it is going to be very difficult.

                  Wait a few more years, and the tide might turn, but if we were to lose the referendum the chance of leaving the EU would be lost for two, maybe three generations. Maybe permanently if the superstate is completed.

                  We Eurosceptics must be careful, bide our time, and actually bring the public along with us. I don’t think UKIP will actually do that with is present strategy – it’s too reliant on one man, and one message (immigration). Populist it is, but it doesn’t have the depth of argument to get a yes vote in a referendum. That will take more time to build.

                • @PhilKean1

                  I have never wanted a referendum we can’t possibly win all the time the Liberal-left political establishment are so totally committed to staying in whatever the cost.

                  Rather, I want to bring about a situation where our politicians put the national interest first and take us out without a referendum.

                  After all, they didn’t ask us when they stole our sacred democracy, why do they need to ask us when we want it returned?

                • Tony_E

                  Phil, you should name the policies that would have reduced the length of the recession without causing a very hard short term correction that would have collapsed the government.

                • @PhilKean1

                  I’ll give you a taster.

                  (1) – Raising VAT to 20%
                  (2) – Raising taxes on already high taxpaying, single-earning households.
                  (3) – Increasing foreign aid
                  (4) – Further penalising UK businesses by imposing more employee rights.
                  (5) – Adding to employers’ costs by making them contribute to employee pensions.
                  (6) – Unsustainably inflating the economy and pushing house prices even further out of reach of those responsible people who are saving for a deposit.
                  (7) – Using UK taxpayers’ money to rescue the Euro
                  (8) – Pushing thousands of middle income households into the 40p tax bracket.
                  (9) – Not having the confidence to oppose Labour’s economically and politically vandalistic top tax rise to 50p – and not having the knowledge or the courage to immediately return it to 40p – which gave Labour much time to exploit the issue to their advantage.
                  (10) – Dismantling Britain’s military deterrent and causing a massive shrinkage in Britain’s defence manufacturing industry.

              • Grey Wolf

                Are they trying to repair 13 years of socialism with 5 more years of socialism?

            • Tony_E

              Labour were spectacularly incompetent, but the crash wasn’t their fault- at least not alone.

              The crash was driven by loose monetary policy which had it’s origins at the Fed, the Greenspan boom which shifted money from productive uses into speculation due to the high returns created simply from trading assets compared to interest rates.

              That Labour, believing that this boom was a sign that boom and bust were over (i.e. that you could for ever print to fund deficit spending by continually priming the pump), was pure folly, but they were not alone in believing it. (Sharing the proceeds of growth).

              Brown, by setting the tests and the MPC, fuelled the boom here but kept his fingerprints publicly off the interest rates. We know of course that there really was no distance between the treasury and the MPC – it was a sham

              • @PhilKean1

                Would you blame your neighbour if your household went bankrupt and was forced to leave your home?

                No, because you do things that make you financially independent and able to ride out any problems you may encounter.

                Britain under Labour did the opposite. They got rid of our best defence manufacturer. They allowed our main nuclear contractor to fall into foreign ownership.
                They created a large, Labour-voting client state that was dependent of Government handouts and state employment.
                They dumbed down education and destroyed competition and aspiration in schools.

                They failed to build any power generating capacity. They made us vulnerable to the volatility of the Russian gas supply.

                They wrecked private pensions. They removed parental, educational, legal and social discipline from under 18s.

                They allowed unlimited immigration.They signed away the economic independence vital to protecting the UK economy.

                And so much more. And Labour were the good guys?

        • Grey Wolf

          You Kid is threatening to do nothing, sir. Consider him a clown at a village fair, a clown whose face-paint is peeling off.

          • you_kid

            I have a poem concocted especially for you, lad
            Apologies, no iambus today – just raw content:

            vote laber get laber
            vote toff get laber
            vote bigot toff get laber
            vote poor bigot get laber
            vote greenie sponge toff troughers get laber
            vote libd’oh get laber
            don’t vote get laber
            thats Engerlandish democrackery four you.

          • @PhilKean1

            Maybe. But his message does seem very confused.

  • Blindsideflanker

    Cameron’s disability (his malfunctioning political nose) was on show again. He didn’t have the wherewithal to dismantle Red Ed’s prices and incomes policy, and he has put himself on the wrong side of the AstraZeneca issue, being a cheerleader for an American asset stripper is not going to be an electorally successful policy.

    • telemachus

      Miliband won on his own today
      Ed Balls did not need to help with hand and facial expressions
      Cameron has a look of final year defeat
      Like Major

  • swatnan

    Its a disgrace that alphonso mangos are banned. They are the creme de la creme of mangos. You can’t beat a mango ice cream combo for desert.
    Still annoyed that bombay duck is banned by the EU. Lift the ban.

    • Blindsideflanker

      I believe there is an issue with disease these mangos can bring in.

      I regret it is EU we have to look to to protect our fauna and flora, well only in a European context, for the British establishment have been found to be so bloody useless.

      • HookesLaw

        Yes. You could argue we can set our own standards (not just on mangoes) but then anything we want to move on would still have to meet EU standards. Not being in the EU would not make any difference to abiding by its single market standards. Not being in the single market would expose us to all sorts of capricious ‘bans’. And that is not to mention exporting our car industry to Bulgaria.
        The USA is a continental wide single market, a standard on imports affects people in Connecticut as well as California.

        • El_Sid

          Actually most plant health matters are handled not by the UE but by EPPO, a separate organisation that covers Europe and North Africa.

          @Swatnan – mangoes represent a real threat to UK industry, as they carry a particularly nasty whitefly that is a big problem in its own right as it is increasingly resistant to pesticides, and also carries over 100 plant viruses, including two that are particular problems for cucumbers and tomatoes. Given that the UK salad industry is worth £100m’s, whereas the mango import industry is worth £6m and that there’s no good control for these beasties if they do get established here, banning imports from India until they can sort out appropriate sterliisation methods seems prudent.

    • DrNickelBockle

      Presumably the Thar, or Great Indian Desert.

      • swatnan

        Ghat’s good!

  • fundamentallyflawed

    Why can’t Cameron call the rent controls what they are? Examples of socialist government interference on free enterprise that is neither required or wanted. Any issues in the rental sector are directly related to 1) the availability of cheap credit to anyone with a few spare quid during the new labour years to buy property on BTL mortgages of 125% 2) the failure of New Labour to replenish council housing stock during its time in power removing a source of cheap rental for lower incomes.

    As for the AstraZeneca issue – that horse has bolted. Once we allowed foreign companies to own national utilities, once we allowed hedge funds to buy and then leverage profitable businesses for no reason than other than turning more profit for themselves we relinquished the right to veto private business take overs

  • In2minds

    Bananas you say, I thought that was his brother’s fruit?