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PMQs sketch: No poppy for Harman, Miliband on the attack, Cameron in transcendental-parrot mode

5 November 2014

4:03 PM

5 November 2014

4:03 PM

Was that a pop at Hattie? Ed Miliband began PMQs by evoking the centenary of the Great War.

‘We will all be wearing our poppies with particular pride this year,’ he said.

And every eye ran along Labour’s front bench to count off the crimson blooms. Balls, poppy. Miliband poppy. Harman, poppy.

No, wait. As you were. Harman, no poppy! Her chic, double-breasted grey jacket bore no tribute to the fallen. But I expect it’s a CND thing. All the same, Miliband should send her out to buy one. Tuppence ought to do it.

The Labour leader needed a win today. Badly. His poll ratings have dipped to the same level as Gordon Brown’s in 2010, but at least Brown had the excuse of being in a fag-end administration led by a scowling narcissistic tax-junkie. Miliband isn’t even in Downing Street yet. To rouse his wilting troops he wanted to shine ‘like hope’s brightest beacon’. His plan was good, but risky, because the chosen ground was Europe.


In a newspaper interview two years ago Cameron declared that he would ‘never countenance leaving the EU.’

What’s his position today? asked Miliband

‘I want Britain to stay in a reformed EU,’ said Cameron. Three times. Because Miliband pushed him on it. And he refused to repeat the ‘no exit’ formula.

Gotcha! Shifty Cameron had been forced perform a public U-turn on one of his core beliefs. So Miliband registered his win. Or did he?

Miliband’s attack reinforces Cameron’s position as the only decision-maker who counts, (while leaving Miliband himself on the fringes). And it tells sceptics that the PM may one day sidle up to the Brexit team and give them a big fat UKIP hug. There are worse places to be.

Keith Vaz is one of an elite group of Labour members who enjoy Commons-wide detestation. As he rises silence falls. Diane Abbott, Jack Straw and David Blunkett get the same treatment. Vazzer is a diabetic, (Type 2), and like most others with that condition he publicises his plight as if it were a rare, God-given endowment. Today, having announced yet again his membership of the unhappy few, (population, 3.2 million), he asked the PM to consider ‘measures to reduce our sugar intake’. Like what? Gluco-taxes, perhaps. But Vazzer probably dreams of far sterner laws. One day chocs, sweets and puds will be licensed for sale like alcohol or firearms and any retailer slipping Fatty an extra KitKat will get life in prison. That’ll show ‘em.

Ben Bradshaw also spoke for the Haagen-Dazs community. Chubby Devonians are being turned away from Exeter hospitals and asked to shed a few hundredweight. Likewise, those with a Silk Cut habit are being denied a place on the operating slab. Overweight cataract patients, in a cruel twist, are treated in one lens but not the other. We’re turning a blind eye to universal healthcare.

As usual on this topic, Cameron did his transcendental parrot routine. He squawked and honked through a list of budget increases and additional staff recruitments. A thousand doctors, he said, had joined the NHS during his time in office. Since their training takes seven years, these extra medics are Labour’s achievement. But Labour never mentions this for fear of being identified with its own record.

What a tragic position to be in.


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