PMQs review: Miliband pins Cameron down on Europe

Which EU powers does he want back and when? Cameron couldn't answer.

A particularly ill-tempered PMQs today, with David Cameron hurling abuse at Ed Miliband in a bid to remind his MPs that it's the Labour leader, not him, they should be attacking. "The split that we have is between the Rt Hon Gentleman and reality," cried the Prime Minister, branding Miliband a "complete mug" for not wanting to repatriate powers from Europe.

But while the PM has pledged to bring back powers, he hasn't, as Miliband smartly noted, said which powers and when. To add to the confusion, Nick Clegg has declared: "It's not going to happen ... You don't change Europe by launching some smash-and-grab dawn raid on Brussels." What is the government's policy? Cameron clearly didn't want to answer the question because he absurdly attacked Miliband for moving on "to the politics", as if the subject had no place in the House of Commons. He eventually replied that the government had already withdrawn Britain from the EU bailout fund and that Miliband had once said of the possibility of Britain joining the euro: "It depends how long I'm prime minister for".

All good knockabout stuff but not, you suspect, the answer that the 81 EU rebels were looking for. They have already warned Cameron against raising unrealistic expectations by vowing to repatriate powers within the lifetime of this parliament. As Miliband noted, the coalition agreement offers no clarity on this point, promising only a "referendum lock" on any future EU treaties. Cameron can't say which powers he wants back because to do so would enrage either the Lib Dems or the Tories (or possibly both).

But despite his smart line of questioning, this didn't feel like a victory for the Labour leader. By the end, Cameron's arsenal of insults ("I might have had a problem on Monday, I think he's got a problem on Wednesday) had roused the Tory backbenches and Labour's own lack of clarity meant several of Miliband's attack lines fell flat. For now, there is little to be gained for either leader in arguing about Europe.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Let's face it: supporting Spurs is basically a form of charity

Now, for my biggest donation yet . . .

I gazed in awe at the new stadium, the future home of Spurs, wondering where my treasures will go. It is going to be one of the architectural wonders of the modern world (football stadia division), yet at the same time it seems ancient, archaic, a Roman ruin, very much like an amphitheatre I once saw in Croatia. It’s at the stage in a new construction when you can see all the bones and none of the flesh, with huge tiers soaring up into the sky. You can’t tell if it’s going or coming, a past perfect ruin or a perfect future model.

It has been so annoying at White Hart Lane this past year or so, having to walk round walkways and under awnings and dodge fences and hoardings, losing all sense of direction. Millions of pounds were being poured into what appeared to be a hole in the ground. The new stadium will replace part of one end of the present one, which was built in 1898. It has been hard not to be unaware of what’s going on, continually asking ourselves, as we take our seats: did the earth move for you?

Now, at long last, you can see what will be there, when it emerges from the scaffolding in another year. Awesome, of course. And, har, har, it will hold more people than Arsenal’s new home by 1,000 (61,000, as opposed to the puny Emirates, with only 60,000). At each home game, I am thinking about the future, wondering how my treasures will fare: will they be happy there?

No, I don’t mean Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker – local as well as national treasures. Not many Prem teams these days can boast quite as many English persons in their ranks. I mean my treasures, stuff wot I have been collecting these past 50 years.

About ten years ago, I went to a shareholders’ meeting at White Hart Lane when the embryonic plans for the new stadium were being announced. I stood up when questions were called for and asked the chairman, Daniel Levy, about having a museum in the new stadium. I told him that Man United had made £1m the previous year from their museum. Surely Spurs should make room for one in the brave new mega-stadium – to show off our long and proud history, delight the fans and all those interested in football history and make a few bob.

He mumbled something – fluent enough, as he did go to Cambridge – but gave nothing away, like the PM caught at Prime Minister’s Questions with an unexpected question.

But now it is going to happen. The people who are designing the museum are coming from Manchester to look at my treasures. They asked for a list but I said, “No chance.” I must have 2,000 items of Spurs memorabilia. I could be dead by the time I finish listing them. They’ll have to see them, in the flesh, and then they’ll be free to take away whatever they might consider worth having in the new museum.

I’m awfully kind that way, partly because I have always looked on supporting Spurs as a form of charity. You don’t expect any reward. Nor could you expect a great deal of pleasure, these past few decades, and certainly not the other day at Liverpool when they were shite. But you do want to help them, poor things.

I have been downsizing since my wife died, and since we sold our Loweswater house, and I’m now clearing out some of my treasures. I’ve donated a very rare Wordsworth book to Dove Cottage, five letters from Beatrix Potter to the Armitt Library in Ambleside, and handwritten Beatles lyrics to the British Library. If Beckham and I don’t get a knighthood in the next honours list, I will be spitting.

My Spurs stuff includes programmes going back to 1910, plus recent stuff like the Opus book, that monster publication, about the size of a black cab. Limited editions cost £8,000 a copy in 2007. I got mine free, as I did the introduction and loaned them photographs. I will be glad to get rid of it. It’s blocking the light in my room.

Perhaps, depending on what they want, and they might take nothing, I will ask for a small pourboire in return. Two free tickets in the new stadium. For life. Or longer . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times