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

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Developer

£50k - 60k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We have an exciting Seni...

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Front End Developer

£50k - 70k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We have an exciting Seni...

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Digital Designer

£50k - 55k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Vertical Sales Director

Market related: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Buy from Amazon and Apple and it’s you that ends up owned

Boyd Tonkin
Hughes in Durban in 2009, celebrating the first of his two centuries in the second Test against South Africa  

Sport will always be risky – we must accept that, even in the wake of the tragic death of Phillip Hughes

Rosie Millard
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game