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PMQs sketch: For Miliband it wasn't as easy as ABC

It sounded as if Ed M's summer nose job had finally kicked in, but it turned out to be just a heavy

It was when a Tory MP suggested that parents should take their children to work during next week's public sector strike that you realised Prime Minister's Questions was just a try-out for the real thing.

There they sat fidgeting, staring off into space, whispering to their pals, ties askew, waiting for the lunch bell, and that was just the Government side of the House. Opposite, equally unruly and even noisier -- as befits their rather ruder upbringing -- the boys and girls from the local comp.

It was meant to be a different day when deep economic matters would be discussed in the run-up to next week's Autumn Statement by the Chancellor, when he will reveal that we are up to our necks in it -- but luckier than the others who are busy swallowing the stuff.

Indeed George was there, chewing on his lip, braced for the inevitable spanking from Labour for his part in the ongoing drama. Just to add to the excitement we had learned earlier in the day that "We-are-all-in-this-together" Dave had just forked out £140,000 to buy a field next to his constituency home without needing any help from his bank manager. What an added bonus for Ed M, who had started off his day by being awarded the phrase of the year prize for inventing "squeezed middle". Surely this was going to be his day.

PMQs kicked off with an early moan from a member of the Government side about next week's strike in what observers thought was just a way of giving Tory MPs a chance to clear their throats before the session started in earnest.

Labour spirits lifted when Ed stood up and launched into his attack on the Government's jobs record. Dave had managed in 18 months what Labour never did in 13 years; push youth unemployment over 1m. As he spoke, he sounded as if his summer nose job had finally kicked, in but as he continued it appeared that it was just a bad cold.

He tried to pin down Dave but even the constant encouragement of Ed B, forever barracking from the sidelines, seemed unable to provide the energy necessary to get a grip on the PM, already a past master in ducking and diving.

Ed threw in his sound bite with the charge that Dave never takes the blame. ABC -- Anyone But Cameron -- he said, but you wondered if his heart was in it. His enthusiasm cannot have been helped by the poll revelation that 18 months on more people still blame Labour than the Coalition for our economic woes.

He tried to hit Dave with another demand for a bankers' bonus tax, this time to help the young unemployed. But the PM swatted him off with a list of nine uses he said Labour had already ear-marked the tax for. "This is a bank tax that likes to say yes", said the PM with all the pleasure of delivering a well-rehearsed line.

Three Tory MPs managed independently -- and no doubt without conferring -- to ask the PM to explain just how wrong, selfish, undemocratic and unrepresentative next week's strike would be. Dave could not agree more, and yes, he does agree with MP Louise Mensch that people should take their kids to work if schools are closed by strikes next week.

When not an MP, Mrs Mensch is a writer of fiction.

Peter McHugh is the former Director of Programmes at GMTV and Chief Executive Officer of Quiddity Productions.

Tags:PMQs