PMQs review: Miliband struggles to convince

The Labour leader failed to get the better of Cameron over the EU budget.

With Lib Dem and Tory ministers at war over wind farms, Michael Heseltine attacking the government for its lack of a growth strategy, and David Cameron facing a backbench rebellion over the EU budget, today's PMQs should have been an easy win for Ed Miliband. But, for the first time in weeks, the Labour leader struggled to land a blow.

Miliband challenged Cameron's refusal to support a real-terms cut in the EU budget , but with little conviction. Indeed, one wondered if he was entirely convinced by his party's new stance. After Cameron angrily declared that the nation would "see through" Labour's position, Miliband quipped, "It’s good to see the crimson tide back", but the line, last used the previous week, fell painfully flat. Instead it was Cameron who was greeted by cheers from his MPs as he vowed to use the UK's veto to block an above-inflation increase in the EU budget. His question - would Miliband really veto a freeze in the budget? - was an apposite one.

After chosing to split his questions, Miliband fared better when he turned to Heseltine's report. The confusion over the government's wind farms policy allowed him to highlight the former deputy prime minister's demand for a "definitive and unambiguous" energy policy, and Cameron's eventual retort - "he's no Michael Heseltine" - rather missed the point. But even in this instance, Miliband's long-winded questions meant the PM rarely looked uncomfortable. "I'm rather enjoying this, Mr Speaker," said Miliband at one point. But as with much of what he said today, one wasn't convinced.

Labour leader Ed Miliband walks through Hyde Park after addressing TUC members earlier this month. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Michael Gove definitely didn't betray anyone, says Michael Gove

What's a disagreement among friends?

Michael Gove is certainly not a traitor and he thinks Theresa May is absolutely the best leader of the Conservative party.

That's according to the cast out Brexiteer, who told the BBC's World At One life on the back benches has given him the opportunity to reflect on his mistakes. 

He described Boris Johnson, his one-time Leave ally before he decided to run against him for leader, as "phenomenally talented". 

Asked whether he had betrayed Johnson with his surprise leadership bid, Gove protested: "I wouldn't say I stabbed him in the back."

Instead, "while I intially thought Boris was the right person to be Prime Minister", he later came to the conclusion "he wasn't the right person to be Prime Minister at that point".

As for campaigning against the then-PM David Cameron, he declared: "I absolutely reject the idea of betrayal." Instead, it was a "disagreement" among friends: "Disagreement among friends is always painful."

Gove, who up to July had been a government minister since 2010, also found time to praise the person in charge of hiring government ministers, Theresa May. 

He said: "With the benefit of hindsight and the opportunity to spend some time on the backbenches reflecting on some of the mistakes I've made and some of the judgements I've made, I actually think that Theresa is the right leader at the right time. 

"I think that someone who took the position she did during the referendum is very well placed both to unite the party and lead these negotiations effectively."

Gove, who told The Times he was shocked when Cameron resigned after the Brexit vote, had backed Johnson for leader.

However, at the last minute he announced his candidacy, and caused an infuriated Johnson to pull his own campaign. Gove received just 14 per cent of the vote in the final contest, compared to 60.5 per cent for May. 


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