PMQs: Miliband gives tour-de-force demonstration of how not to do it

A growing economy is bad news for Ed's 'cost of living crisis'

Share
Related Topics

Ed Miliband took the unusual decision to hold a teach-in in the House of Commons today. Realising that his “cost of living crisis” line was useless, he thought he might provide a public service by showing us why. The obvious problem with the “cost of living crisis” theme is that, if the economy starts growing, nobody cares.

When this morning began with the release of new jobs figures showing that the economy is indeed growing, the Leader of the Opposition had a problem. If he mentioned the figures, Conservative MPs would hoot and jeer. And if he didn’t mention the figures, Conservative MPs would hoot and jeer. So he started by referring to “the welcome fall in unemployment”. Conservative MPs hooted and jeered. His first question was to ask if the Prime Minister was worried that so many new jobs were part-time.

This was such a bad question that David Cameron didn’t notice it and answered a different one, saying that the Government had taken hard decisions and we were beginning to see the benefit of them. It wasn’t until Miliband was asking his second question that someone prompted Cameron to look in his Ring-Binder of Useful Facts, so the Prime Minister answered Miliband’s first question when he answered his second. Seventy per cent of the new jobs since the election were full-time, Cameron said. He then repeated answer one and said, “That’s the plan. What’s his?”

At this point, the Leader of the Opposition is supposed to say, “Let me explain how this works: I ask the questions and he answers them; Prime Minister’s Questions means Questions to the Prime Minister, not Questions asked by the Prime Minister.” Or words to that effect. But as Miliband was giving a demonstration of how not to do it, he said that the Government had promised to balance the books and failed; and that it had promised to preserve the nation’s credit rating and failed. Either of those would have been a reasonable question on its own, but then he added that Cameron had once said “he’d be good at Prime Minister” and had failed at that too. But none of those was his actual question. Instead he returned to the “cost of living crisis” - indeed to the COLC “facing families up and down the country” - and asked how much gas and electricity bills had gone up over the past year.

Cameron didn’t answer. Instead he commented on the new hand gesture developed by Ed Balls, sitting next to Miliband. Given that this was a public information session, the Shadow Chancellor helpfully demonstrated what an opposition front-bencher should never do, and showed off the new “pointing down” gesture. This allowed the Prime Minister to quote an anonymous “senior Labour source” in The Sun today who said: “You should not under-estimate how ruthless Ed [Miliband] is. He will not let anyone stand between us and the election - and that includes Ed Balls.” Cameron said the Balls was going to need a new gesture, and waved “bye, bye” at him over the despatch box. Childish. Deadly. “You don’t need it to be Christmas,” Cameron said to Miliband, “to know you’re sitting next to a turkey.” Childish, rubbish joke. Deadly.

Miliband carried on. He had six questions and he was going to use them. So he tried the cost of child care. Cameron said the Government had provided more nursery places. Miliband, brilliantly but irrelevantly, noticed that this didn’t answer the question and so described the Prime Minister’s “turkey of an answer”, thus cleverly drawing more attention to Cameron’s stupid joke about sitting next to a turkey.

Miliband’s last question gave him one final chance to show how it is not done. Something about cutting taxes for the Prime Minister’s Christmas-card list. Even the “tax cut for millionaires” line loses some of its edge when the economy is starting to grow to everyone’s benefit.

John Bercow, the Speaker, brought that part of the seminar to a close by interrupting the next question after Miliband’s last to ask for quiet. “We are have just going to have to keep going for a little bit longer,” he said, referring to his policy of adding injury time to PMQs to make up for noise and interruptions. This was greeted by loud and long Conservative cheers: the longer PMQs goes on, they know, the more they are winning.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

 

Political satire is funny, but it also causes cynicism and apathy

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links