PMQs review: a win for Miliband as Cameron slips up on food banks

"I never thought the big society was about feeding hungry children in Britain," Miliband tells Cameron.

The final PMQs of the year is always a daunting occasion for both party leaders; a poor performance risks their MPs going home for Christmas disgruntled with their leadership. Last year, a duff joke about coalition disunity sunk Ed Miliband as David Cameron quipped, "It's not that bad, it's not like we're brothers or anything". This year, happily for the Labour leader, there was no repeat.

After asking Cameron to update the Commons on British operations in Afghanistan, Miliband turned to the subject of food banks, asking the PM whether he was concerned that they had increased six-fold in the last three years. Cameron responded by ill-advisedly hailing food bank volunteers as part of the "big society", prompting Miliband to reply, in one of his best lines for weeks, "I never thought the big society was about feeding hungry children in Britain."

Cameron attempted to defend the coalition's record by pointing to the council tax freeze and the increase in the personal allowance as evidence of the action he had taken to protect living standards. But in a reminder of just how politically toxic the decision to cut the top rate of tax remains, Miliband replied that Cameron had imposed a "strivers' tax" on low and middle income families (a reference to George Osborne's plan to uprate tax credits by just 1 per cent over the next three years), whilst giving an average tax cut of £107,500 to people earning over a million pounds a year. Expect Labour to take every opportunity to remind the public of this fact ahead of the official introduction of the reduced top rate (50p to 45p) in April.

Finding his stride, Miliband said Cameron was "back to his old ways" after reports that he had an "intense conversation" with Rebekah Brooks last weekend. "No doubt they're both looking forward to the Boxing Day hunt," he added. Miliband ended by declaring that no one now believed Cameron could be a "one nation" prime minister, to which Cameron, in a flash of wit, replied: "it wouldn't be Christmas without the repeats." He ended by turning to what remains his strongest suit - the deficit - accusing Miliband of offering more of the "something-for-nothing culture that got us into this mess in the first place."

Both leaders played to their strengths today. While polls show that the public believe that the coalition is cutting too far, too fast, they also show that they continue to regard the cuts as necessary and blame Labour more than the coalition for them. The economic debate is finely poised. The next year will begin to show in whose favour it will be resolved.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said David Cameron could never be a "one nation" prime minister. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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#RedWhiteandBlueBrexit: How do you like your EU negotiations?

Twitter users have responded to the prime minister's statement that she wants a multi-coloured Brexit.

Earlier today, Theresa May spoke from Bahrain to the BBC’s deputy political editor John Pienaar, about the type of Brexit deal she is looking to make. The most we've heard from the prime minister so far on this most significant of consitutional issues is the much repeated "Brexit means Brexit." Yet now it seems May has a new catchphrase — what she is really looking for is a "red, white and blue Brexit".

The remark was a response to the suggestion that the chancellor Philip Hammond and the Brexit secretary, David Davis favour a so-called "grey Brexit" which would involve the UK exiting the single market while retaining Canada-style access to parts of the free trade zone, and limits on immigration apart for skilled migrants in specific sectors. This is the mid-range option between a "white Brexit", which would see the UK attempt to remain in the single market, and a "black Brexit" which would see the UK exit the EU without a viable future deal.

May told reporters: “I’m interested in all these terms that have been identified – hard Brexit, soft Brexit, black Brexit, white Brexit, grey Brexit – and actually what we should be looking for is a red, white and blue Brexit.” 

The people of Twitter, as always, have responded to the prime minister's possibly ill-advised attempt to inject some patriotic colour into the debate with suggestions for the type of Brexit they would like to see.

Some Twitter users were just clowning around.

 

Some would like to see a festive Brexit.

 

While others would like to sweeten the deal.


Some are auditioning for the Great British Brexit Bake Off.


And some are just staring at Twitter in confusion.