There’s nothing wrong with the Prime Minister turning up to PMQs with a snappy line that he wants those watching to remember. But sometimes as the exchanges wear on, the risk grows that the clever line isn’t going to get a showing because the questions haven’t been quite right. And so the line gets shoehorned into an answer that isn’t quite relevant. Take today’s question from Margaret Beckett on the lobbying bill that last night some Tory MPs decided to vote against. Beckett asked:
‘Why does the PM believe that his plans to restrict lobbying are opposed by organisations from the Salvation Army, Countryside Alliance, Oxfam, the British Legion and so on, right through to ConservativeHome?’
Cameron leapt up to reply:
‘I was listening to the exchanges before I came in for Prime Minister’s Questions, and it seems to me there’s a concerted lobbying campaign being run by the trade unions who mysteriously managed to convince member of parliament after member of parliament opposite to raise this problem. We all know what’s going on, they don’t want the trade unions brought within the law. They want the trade unions to go on spending millions after millions trying to alter an election campaign rather than having them properly controlled by the law.’
Well, at least he managed to get the line about Labour being at the beck and call of the trade unions in somewhere. But the Prime Minister’s answer was quite amusing, really, because it managed to suggest that the main fuss about the bill has been orchestrated by trade unions, when it has in fact come from his own Big Society (read Iain Martin on this). Even think tanks beloved by the right don’t like it: the IEA and CPS have signed a letter complaining about it. And last time I checked, ConHome wasn’t the natural hangout of Len McCluskey.
His answer got the line to take on the trade unions across, sure, but it also suggests that he has no idea what the real concerns are about this legislation. There wasn’t a big rebellion on the legislation last night. But as I blogged, Tory MPs don’t feel they can take their leadership at its word when it says something will be fine. This answer won’t have given them much more confidence.Tags: David Cameron, Lobbying Bill, Margaret Beckett, PMQs, UK politics