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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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

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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