Diary: How Ed dreads giving Dave a PMQ pasting


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The Independent Online

Ed Miliband has spoken about the "nightmare" that is Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons. It is a complaint from every new party leader. Each arrives in office determined that PMQs will be more constructive and less confrontational, only to be carried along by the atmosphere in an over-excited chamber into joining the verbal punch-ups.

"It's a terrible advert for politics, and encourages the view that we are a bunch of school kids shouting at each other," the Labour leader, right, has told the Jewish Chronicle.

Coincidentally, his remarks appeared on the same day his party went on to the attack, complaining that David Cameron is absenting himself from too many of these contests.

The Prime Minister will not be in the Commons on Wednesday, 14 March, because he is visiting Washington. Added to that, Conservative business managers have now suggested that the Commons should sit on Friday 23 March, and cancel the following Wednesday's sitting, sparing Cameron another bout.

Michael Dugher, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, has loyally suggested that Cameron is "running scared" because Miliband has become such a terrifying opponent.

"David Cameron has had a series of shocking PMQs," he said. "Faced with relentless pressure from Ed Miliband on the NHS, Cameron has floundered badly. It seems Cameron's response to his recent pastings is to try to dodge Prime Minister's Questions. Cameron may be running scared."

Or maybe, like Ed Miliband, the Prime Minister thinks it is all "a terrible advert for politics".

Joker Gove isn't a spoil sport after all

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, had a gag to lighten up his speech at a parliamentary press lunch yesterday. He said that he wanted to dispel the view that he was anti-sport, after the fiasco of his abandoned attempt to end targeted funding for school sports. He has been learning about football, and has discovered that Alex Ferguson has decided to drop Wayne Rooney and replace him with Colleen because "Alex has heard that these days it's the wife who takes the penalties."

Clegg loses adviser who called PM 'fake'

Nick Clegg has just lost one of his most experienced and smartest advisers. Chris Saunders, an Oxford graduate and former lobbyist, was until last week the Deputy Prime Minister's economics adviser. Previously he did the same job for Vince Cable. He was also named in a cable published by WikiLeaks as one of the advisers who in March 2009 told a political counsellor at the US embassy that David Cameron was "fake", "out of touch" and had an "insulated, upper-class persona". It would be interesting to ask whether working in Downing Street changed his opinion of the Prime Minister, but the message on his voicemail says he will be out of the country until August.

Democracy doesn't pay for the Maldives

During an online question and answer session in November, David Cameron described Mohamed Naseed, the first elected President of the Maldive Islands, as "my new best friend – he's great!" The Prime Minister has not elaborated since his "best friend" was forced out of office two weeks ago, but new figures from the Department for International Development give an insight into Britain's commitment to the Maldives during the two-and-a-half years when they were ruled by someone democratically elected.

The Maldives used to receive quite generous British aid during the 30-year rule of Abdul Gayoom, peaking at £807,557 in 2004-5 – not bad for a state with a population below 105,000. Under President Nassed, they received no aid at all, except a one-off payment of £150,000 towards the cost of hosting an international conference on climate change.

"DfID no longer has a bilateral aid programme in the Maldives, and there are no plans to initiate one," said the minister Alan Duncan.