PMQs verdict: Miliband gets the better of frustrated Cameron

The Labour leader’s attack on the coalition’s “broken promises” will resonate.

It all started so calmly. Ed Miliband opened with two statesmanlike questions on air freight security and economic development in Yemen, simply asking the Prime Minister to "update the House". But this soon degenerated into the most vicious and ill-tempered PMQs since the election.

In what could be his last bout before he takes paternity leave, Miliband targeted the Lib Dems over their U-turn on tuition fees. He eschewed a policy-based critique of the coalition's proposals (no mention of higher student debt, for instance) in favour of a wide-ranging attack on the government's "broken promises".

This was one of the Labour leader's more effective performances and his pointed assertion that "the Prime Minister used to think that trust mattered" will resonate with the electorate.

In some of the most memorable lines he's delivered, Miliband declared: "This is a government of broken promises. Broken promises on tuition fees, broken promises on VAT, broken promises on child benefit from the Prime Minister. That's what they meant by Broken Britain."

In the time-honoured fashion of prime ministers down the ages, David Cameron responded by accusing his opponent of "opportunism". Few were impressed by his decison to highlight Miliband's authorship of Labour's manifesto (after all, Cameron wrote the 2005 Conservative manifesto), but his riposte on housing benefit left the shadow cabinet blushing.

Quoting from Labour's 2010 manifesto, he noted the party's promise "to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford". One sensed that few on the opposition benches had an adequate reply to that.

But it was a below-the-belt punch from Miliband that left Cameron really smarting. The PM struggled to disguise his irritation at Miliband's decision to raise the appointment of his campaign photographer to a civil service post and failed to rebut the charge that he had wasted taxpayers' money. He eventually countered with a decent Gordon Brown gag ("We'll be spending a bit less on mobile telephones in Downing Street"), but the damage had been done.

Miliband had the best of the exchanges, but this foul-tempered encounter was a perfect example of why most of the public can't stand PMQs. By the end, neither leader could leave the Chamber with much credit.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Tony Blair won't endorse the Labour leader - Jeremy Corbyn's fans are celebrating

The thrice-elected Prime Minister is no fan of the new Labour leader. 

Labour heavyweights usually support each other - at least in public. But the former Prime Minister Tony Blair couldn't bring himself to do so when asked on Sky News.

He dodged the question of whether the current Labour leader was the best person to lead the country, instead urging voters not to give Theresa May a "blank cheque". 

If this seems shocking, it's worth remembering that Corbyn refused to say whether he would pick "Trotskyism or Blairism" during the Labour leadership campaign. Corbyn was after all behind the Stop the War Coalition, which opposed Blair's decision to join the invasion of Iraq. 

For some Corbyn supporters, it seems that there couldn't be a greater boon than the thrice-elected PM witholding his endorsement in a critical general election. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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