Only three more to go, folks! Some strong words today from our team as this Parliament begins to take its final breaths.
This week we saw an especially unedifying edition of PMQs, in large part due to the embarrassing spectacle of Cameron dodging Miliband’s questions with increasingly tenuous ‘answers’. Miliband’s questions also came across as very weak – particularly his final two questions (during what is effectively a debate on TV) about whether Cameron would debate on TV. Quite the interrogation.
The sad irony for Miliband was that the Labour leader’s questions only served to underline Cameron’s argument that Labour “can’t talk about unemployment, because it’s shrinking; can’t talk about living standards, because they’re increasing; and can’t talk about growth because it’s rising.” The sad irony for PMQs was that the questions revealed more than the answers. And the sad thing for us is that, just like no-one looked good or came out a winner today, the election (and the run-up to it) will almost certainly be the same.
Coverage of the Government’s sale of its stake in Eurostar today would almost certainly have put a smile on Cameron’s face. Added to that was the news that average household ending the financial year in April better off than they were in 2008. He would have no doubt felt emboldened as he entered the Chamber today, ready for the weekly debate that, if honest, he often comes out of as victor.
Today was refreshingly different however. Miliband had the PM on the back foot from the start – on the Coalition’s record on immigration. Miliband quoted the PM’s promise concerning immigration levels in his 2010 election ‘Contract with Britain’. His broken promise, Miliband said, made Nick Clegg’s tuition fees pledge look like “the model of integrity”.
Cameron responded by reeling off all the promises his Government had kept. These included protecting pensions, free television licenses for the over 75s, the winter fuel allowance, free eye tests for pensioners…a list that would bring a wry smile to many critics of the Coalition Government.
The session was rounded off with Miliband inviting the PM to confirm that he would join him in head to head live television debate on the 30th of April. The fervour of the challenge, and the unconvincing response from the Cameron made Miliband look almost threatening. Roll on next week!
Today’s PMQs may have been short but I came away from it feeling surprisingly excited; excited to see a remarkably strong performance from a confident Ed Miliband. He levelled a convincing challenge against Cameron’s broken promises on immigration. Cameron’s rebuttal – a loud listing of promise fulfilment – only seemed to highlight the Conservative’s inability to fulfil promises made on immigration, an issue clearly one of great concern for the public. Not only is this incident embarrassing in isolation, but hints at a more general failure of this government to uphold its campaign promises. I would remark that actually implementing firm promises made in an election campaign is not something to gleefully boast about, but is what we as a public should expect and demand of our government. The issues upon which we elect a government NOT being reversed has somehow become remarkable.
A second victory for Miliband, or rather embarrassment for Cameron, was the latest development in the TV debate debacle. It was a very strong few minutes from Miliband who not only directly challenged Cameron to attend the scheduled debate on April 30th, but also called Cameron up on his desperate attempts to avoid giving an answer by inviting him to engage in a head-to-head debate before the election. This was a double disaster for Cameron. For someone who tried to win this PMQs by accusing Labour of poor leadership, I would argue that the PM was shown to be the weaker leader today.