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PMQs live blog

30 March 2011

11:49 AM

30 March 2011

11:49 AM

VERDICT: What happened there, then? The Prime Minister often has a confident swagger about him when it comes to PMQs — but today it went into overdrive. He simply couldn’t
conceal his glee at taking on Eds Miliband and Balls; the first over his appearance at the anti-cuts demonstration, the second for just being Ed Balls. It was a little bit Flashman from the PM,
perhaps. Yet, on this occasion, it also helped him sail through the contest more or less untroubled.

Aside from the theatrics, the serious talk was reserved for whether the coalition should help arm the rebels in Libya. The PM’s official position was that we shouldn’t rule it out, although, if
anything, he sounded as though he quite favours the idea. I expect we’ll hear more on this from William Hague, as he delivers his statement on Libya now, and from others over the next few days. In
the end, there are more important questions in town than whether Balls really is "the most annoying person in modern politics".

And that’s it. My short verdict soon.

1230: My, how Cameron loves ridiculing Ed Balls. Half-way through an answer on potteries, the PM stops to say, "I wish the shadow chancellor would shut up and sometimes listen
to the answers". And there’s more: "I may be alone in finding him the most annoying person in modern politics, but I suspect my opposite number may feel likewise in a few years."
Sincere laughter on all sides.

1228: A noteworthy intervention from Menzies Campbell, who encourages the PM to display caution when it comes to arming the rebels in Libya. Cameron suggests, in response, that he
has been assured about the rebels’ intentions and make-up. Arming them is clearly not off the cards.

1225: Cameron remains firmly on the front foot. Referring to doubts over the coalition’s commitment to Winter Fuel Payments, he rattles through a list of measures that the
coalition said they’d keep — and have. The coalition benches are roaring "More! More!"

1223: Woah, Cameron really takes it to Miliband over his appearance at the protest last weekend: "Rather than standing on the shoulders of the Suffragettes, or whatever
nonsense he said, he is sitting in a pool of debt of his party’s making — and he doesn’t have a clue what to do about it."

1222: The PM gives short shrift to the suggestion that the coalition might break its pledge to increase health spending each year: "We said we would increase health spending
in real terms — and we will." I expect this means that, should inflation turn the rises into cuts, the coalition will increase spending to compensate.

1221: Cameron pays tribute to Lord Baker, as George Osborne did last week, for making the case for University Technical Colleges. The government will fund over twenty of these
vocational colleges. Cameron adds that he expects them to become an "important part" of our educational fabric.

1217: The Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland challenges Cameron about a specialised children’s heart unit that may be axed from a hospital in Leeds. The PM treads carefully in response,
saying that specialisation is a "tricky area" that requires some thought.

1214: Big Words from Cameron about the government’s plan to shorten the dole queues: "What we are doing is introducing the biggest work programme since the Great

1212: The House falls into respectful silence, as Cameron uses a question on coastguards to pay his condolences to Sheryll Murray for the recent loss of her fisherman husband at

1210: Cameron and Miliband continue to play ping-pong on police cuts. It is the Prime Minister who gets the better of the final exchange, though, by bringing up Miliband’s
appearance at last weekend’s march. "Has anyone seen anything more ridiculous than the Labour leader marching against the cuts that his party caused?"

1208: A favourite Labour theme: will there be "frontline" cuts to police forces? Cameron’s response is, effectively, to push the responsibility onto the forces themselves
— if they manage their bugdets wisely, then there needn’t be fewer offcers pounding the pavements.

Cameron is warming up: he points out that Labour introduced tuition fees in the first place, and then says that univerisities’ plans will be judged precisely on the access they
afford to disadvantaged students.

1205: It’s a gag-a-minute on the wedding front. Miliband quips that Cameron "knows how to organise a good stag do". Cameron says that Miliband must be "dying for a
honeymoon as leader of the Opposition". On more serious matters, Miliband asks whether university tuition fees will reduce access for disadvantaged students.

Miliband asks both for an update on Libya, and whether we should arm the rebels. Cameron responds, first, by congratulating the Labour leader on his upcoming nuptials, before moving
onto the conflict in the Middle East. "We do not rule [arming the rebels] out," he says, "but we have not taken a decision to do so."

1200: Right on time, David Cameron starts by paying tribute to two soldiers who died last week in Afghanistan. The first question is from the Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price, and it’s a
incisive jab at the benches opposite: should 14 Labour MPs withdraw their names from a EDM supporting UKUncut? Cameron condemns the actions of the violent protestors, and UKUncut’s failure to do

Stay tuned for live coverage from 1200.

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