PMQs review: Cameron is losing the economic argument

The PM could not rebut Miliband's charge that his growth strategy is failing.

Never has David Cameron's defence of the government's economic strategy sounded as weak as it did at today's PMQs. Ed Miliband devoted all six of his questions to the subject and came off better each time. Confronted by the worst unemployment figures since 1994, the Prime Minister could only repeat his tired insistence that a change of course would bankrupt Britain.

"You cannot borrow your way out of a debt crisis," he declared but as Miliband reminded him, "to have a credible plan on the deficit, he has to have a credible plan on growth". George Osborne has already been forced to announce £44.4bn of extra borrowing due to lower tax revenues and higher welfare payments.

Cameron hurled criticisms of Labour's economic policy at Miliband, citing Charles Clarke, Alistair Darling and, finally, Digby Jones (which doesn't even qualify as an argument from authority). The Prime Minister, it seems, is taking refuge in consensus. But as any student of the Herbert Hoover administration knows, the received wisdom of the day is often wrong. Cameron should derive no comfort from the endorsement of others. His failure to rebut Miliband's central charge that the government's growth strategy is failing was a sign that he is losing the argument.

Sounding unfortunately bunged up, Miliband still landed several blows on the PM. Reminding him that 400,000 firms were expected to take part in Osborne's National Insurance holiday, he forced a blushing Cameron to admit that just 7,000 had, before neatly seguing into the Liam Fox story. Cameron, he said, was doing everything he could to save the Defence Secretary's job but doing nothing to save the jobs of ordinary men and women."It's one rule if you're in the cabinet, it's another rule for everyone else," he cried.

Asked by Labour MP Pat Glass if a minister should resign if he or she breaks the ministerial code, Cameron replied that it was up to the Prime Minister to decide, confirming that he does not view a breach as grounds for automatic dismissal. He shows every sign of wanting to hold on to Fox but insisted that he would await the conclusion of Gus O'Donnell's investigation. But with the economic situation only likely to worsen, the Defence Secretary's troubles will soon be the least of Cameron's worries.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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25 times people used Brexit to attack Muslims since the EU referendum

Some voters appear more interested in expelling Muslims than EU red tape.

In theory, voting for Brexit because you were worried about immigration has nothing to do with Islamophobia. It’s about migrant workers from Eastern Europe undercutting wages. Or worries about border controls. Or the housing crisis. 

The reports collected by an anti-Muslim attack monitor tell a different story. 

Every week, the researchers at Tell Mama receive roughly 40-50 reports of Islamophobic incidences.

But after the EU referendum, they recorded 30 such incidents in three days alone. And many were directly related to Brexit. 

Founder Fiyaz Mughal said there had been a cluster of hate crimes since the vote:

“The Brexit vote seems to have given courage to some with deeply prejudicial and bigoted views that they can air them and target them at predominantly Muslim women and visibly different settled communities.”

Politicians have appeared concerned. On Monday, as MPs grappled with the aftermath of the referendum, the Prime Minister David Cameron stated “loud and clear” that: “Just because we are leaving the European Union, it will not make us a less tolerant, less diverse nation.”

But condemning single racist incidents is easier than taking a political position that appeases the majority and protects the minority at the same time. 

As the incidents recorded make clear, the aggressors made direct links between their vote and the racial abuse they were now publicly shouting.

The way they told it, they had voted for Muslims to “leave”. 
 
Chair of Tell Mama and former Labour Justice and Communities Minister, Shahid Malik, said:

“With the backdrop of the Brexit vote and the spike in racist incidents that seems to be emerging, the government should be under no illusions, things could quickly become
extremely unpleasant for Britain’s minorities.

“So today more than ever, we need our government, our political parties and of course our media to act with the utmost responsibility and help steer us towards a post-Brexit Britain where xenophobia and hatred are utterly rejected.”

Here are the 25 events that were recorded between 24 and 27 June that directly related to Brexit. Please be aware that some of the language is offensive:

  1. A Welsh Muslim councillor was told to pack her bags and leave.
  2. A man in a petrol station shouted: "You're an Arabic c**t, you're a terrorist" at an Arab driver and stated he “voted them out”. 
  3. A Barnsley man was told to leave and that the aggressor’s parents had voted for people like him to be kicked out.
  4. A woman witnessed a man making victory signs at families at a school where a majority of students are Muslim.
  5. A man shouted, “you f**king Muslim, f**king EU out,” to a woman in Kingston, London. 
  6. An Indian man was called “p**i c**t in a suit” and told to “leave”.
  7. Men circled a Muslim woman in Birmingham and shouted: “Get out - we voted Leave.”
  8. A British Asian mother and her two children were told: "Today is the day we get rid of the likes of you!" by a man who then spat at her. 
  9. A man tweeted that his 13-year-old brother received chants of “bye, bye, you’re going home”.
  10. A van driver chanted “out, out, out”, at a Muslim woman in Broxley, Luton
  11. Muslims in Nottingham were abused in the street with chants of: “Leave Europe. Kick out the Muslims.”
  12. A Muslim woman at King’s Cross, London, had “BREXIT” yelled in her face.
  13. A man in London called a South Asian woman “foreigner” and commented about UKIP.
  14. A man shouted “p**i” and “leave now” at individuals in a London street.
  15. A taxi driver in the West Midlands told a woman his reason for voting Leave was to “get rid of people like you”.
  16. An Indian cyclist was verbally abused and told to “leave now”. 
  17. A man on a bike swore at a Muslim family and muttered something about voting.
  18. In Newport, a Muslim family who had not experienced any trouble before had their front door kicked in.
  19. A South Asian woman in Manchester was told to “speak clearly” and then told “Brexit”. 
  20. A Sikh doctor was told by a patient: “Shouldn’t you be on a plane back to Pakistan? We voted you out.”
  21. An abusive tweet read: “Thousands of raped little White girls by Muslims mean nothing to Z….#Brexit”.
  22. A group of men abused a South Asian man by calling him a “p**i c**t” and telling him to go home after Brexit.
  23. A man shouted at a taxi driver in Derby: "Brexit, you p**i.”
  24. Two men shouted at a Muslim woman walking towards a mosque “muzzies out” and “we voted for you being out.”
  25. A journalist was called a “p**i” in racial abuse apparently linked to Brexit.