Today’s Prime Minister’s Questions highlighted the problem Cameron has on high earners and bankers. Ed Miliband chose to attack on George Osborne’s opposition to the EU’s bonus cap, and he had some pretty good jokes to back it up, too. He started his attack with a case study, which tricked Tory MPs into thinking he was talking about the ‘bedroom tax’, so they groaned a little. But this wasn’t about a benefit cut, it was about a bonus:
‘Mr Speaker, I’d like to ask the Prime Minister about an individual case: John works in East London and is worried about what’s happening to his living standards. His salary is £1m and he’s worried that his bonus may be capped at just £2m – can the Prime Minister tell us what he’s going to do for John?’
Miliband then segued into the bedroom tax, pushing the Prime Minister on the details. This sort of contrast between arrangements for the high-paid and those at the bottom of the income scale will always plague the Prime Minister.
But actually Cameron managed to survive the attack reasonably well, even though bankers vs benefits is a good combination. He had a few good comebacks himself, such as ‘I don’t have to listen to the croupier in the casino when it all went bust’, and made much of Labour’s opposition to every benefit reform going. One thing to note from successive Prime Minister’s Questions is that Labour backbenchers are much better at taking the party line than those on the Tory benches, who tend to ask the Prime Minister about whatever it is that’s bugging them. Miliband’s MPs stick to the attack line, asking week after week about food banks, the ‘bedroom tax’ and the 50p rate. One of the best lines that Miliband had was that the Tories were preparing for opposition, adding a joke about Theresa May’s nascent leadership ambitions.
One example of possible messaging problems came when Cameron was asked about the Mid-Staffs scandal. He ended his reply with:
‘David Nicholson has made his apology and wants to get on with his job of running an excellent NHS and other people, frankly, should be thinking of their positions too.’
Once the session had concluded, Cameron’s spokespeople were unable to give any details about who on earth the PM meant. Was he saying that Andy Burnham should think about his position? Or senior NHS managers other than Nicholson? No details were offered: it seemed that this was another occasion when the Number 10 spinners were as unsure as everyone else as to what was going on in the Prime Minister’s head.Tags: David Cameron, PMQs, UK politics