PMQs: We've gone through the looking glass, and now the Tories want to spend, spend, spend

For their part, Labour want to know where this money is coming from

Share

In an instant, politics was inverted. The Conservative Prime Minister promised to spend what it takes, and accused the Labour opposition of refusing to promise to spend anything at all. Ed Miliband wanted to know what David Cameron meant by saying “money is no object” today. Did it mean that he would be cancelling the 500 redundancies for staff of the Environment Agency? Did it mean that he would spend “whatever it takes … to make sure we have a resilient country for the future”, which were the Prime Minister’s words?

Sadly he failed to ask about two other possibilities. One is that Cameron was engaged in a grammar lesson at his Downing Street news conference, observing to the assembled specialists in the use of English that in the sentence, “money is no object”, the word “ money” is in fact the subject. The other is that the Prime Minister had decided to elevate the occasion to the philosophy of economics and was reminding his audience that, while notes and coins are physical objects, money itself is an abstract concept that depends on confidence and cultural assumptions of value.

It didn’t matter, because Cameron didn’t answer the two questions that Miliband asked in any case, saying that had spent more than the party opposite and would do so in future, at one point listing the years to which his promise applied: “2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020.” Although he had started by saying one of those small-printy things that they say really fast in radio adverts, that his promises applied only to “our relief efforts”. When he said a resilient country, it turned out that he did not mean putting workers on the boards and making the British economy German.

He said that Labour couldn’t match his pledge because Ed Balls had proposed “zero-based budgeting”. I think he meant that, because all spending was under review, no Labour spending promise could be relied on, but it sounded as if Cameron thought a zero-based budget was £0. This encouraged one of the stranger features of modern parliamentary politics, namely the conversation conducted by heckle and sign language between the two front benches as the dance and backing vocals to the actual Questions to the Prime Minister. While David Cameron was trying to listen to the last question, from John Baron, a Conservative backbencher, Ed Balls shouted across, at George Osborne, “Am I allowed to reply?” Miliband joined in, mouthing questions to the Chancellor while the Prime Minister carried on and the Speaker looked on benignly.

Either we have gone through the looking-glass, or something has changed on this side of the mirror. The Conservatives are now the party of limitless public spending, and Labour is the party that asks sceptical questions about it. But, on this side of the mirror, Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, had just held a news conference in which he upgraded his estimate of growth this year to 3.4 per cent. In the long-forgotten days when it wasn’t raining, that would be called an economic boom.

That really could turn politics upside down.

 

React Now

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

Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: Blairites for and against a Miliband victory

John Rentoul
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in debt to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before