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A tasty contest

9 March 2011

3:08 PM

9 March 2011

3:08 PM

Today’s PMQs was full of verve and bite. A welcome change after last week’s
washout. It’s all getting a bit tasty between Ed and Dave. The Labour leader opened with Libya and after making ritual noises about wanting to support the government’s foreign policy he
admitted he found it hard not to voice his ‘concern about incompetence’. Nice tactics there. Pose as a statesman and stick the blade in under the table. But Cameron wasn’t
standing for it. ‘I don’t want to take a lecture from Labour about dealing with Libya and Gadaffi,’ he said furiously. And the cheers from the Tory benches redoubled when he
called for Labour to apologise for its part in the release of the still-not-dead Al Megrahi.

Miliband dealt with this by seizing on what Cameron had failed to say. ‘I notice a deafening silence about the performance of the Foreign Secretary.’ He then tried to extend his
‘incompetence’ smear to frontline policing which he said would result in a loss of ‘12,000 officers’. Cameron switched straight back to Hague. ‘We have an excellent
foreign secretary!’ Some expected him to amplify this with a few concrete examples of his foreign minister’s virtues but instead he lobbed in a killer-line which he had up his sleeve
just in case Miliband turned nasty over Hague. ‘There’s only one person I can remember around here knifing a foreign secretary,’ said Cameron. ‘And I think I’m looking
at him.’


Miliband was fore-armed too. His comedy writers have spent the whole week writing comebacks to quips about the bust-up between Labour’s Cain and Abel. ‘The more he brings my relatives
into this,’ said Miliband, ‘the more you know he’s losing the argument. I’ve got a second cousin in Belgium he’ll be going after next.’
Cameron, unable to leave it alone, accused Miliband of being ‘touchy’ about his brother. And he responded to the charge about policing cuts by denying that Miliband’s source, the
Association of Chief Police Officers, had predicted a drop of 12,000 officers. He wanted to put police ‘on the streets fighting crime, not behind desks fighting paper.’ Miliband came
back strongly. He told the house that companies hit by burglaries are now being sent DIY fingerprinting kits by their local constabulary. ‘Investigating your own crime’, he joked, is
the Big Society gone too far. He accused the prime minister of being ‘out of touch’ and he finished with a toff-clobbering classic. ‘He acts as if he’s born to rule.
He’s just not very good at it.’

Cameron laughed it all off. ‘The same pre-scripted lines he dreamed up earlier’. And he stirred his troops with a series of hearty communal catcalls.‘Has the party opposite got a
plan for the NHS?’ No! ‘A plan for the police? No!! ‘A plan to cut the deficit?’ No!!! The Tory benches filled their lungs and roared their contempt. Cameron had powerful
exit-line too. He referred yet again to Ed’s older brother whose latest contribution to his party’s quest for its soul – ‘the Left suffers from a deficit of ideas’
– is like gold-dust to the Tories. Cameron’s only danger is that he may over-graze the pasture.

This was a fascinating contest. We got a bit of policy, a bit of verbal swordplay and plenty of rat-like political cunning. Cameron ended the session undamaged and Labour will be relieved that
their man has rediscovered his steel. Honours were shared.


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