David Cameron attends a ceremonial welcome for The President Of United Mexican States at Horse Guards Parade on March 3, 2015. Photograph: Getty Images.
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PMQs review: Confident Cameron blusters through immigration and TV debates

Miliband's arguments were by far the stronger but at no point did the PM appear truly uncomfortable. 

David Cameron had the confidence of a man scenting victory at today's PMQs. The latest polls, showing the Tories ahead, meant he was in boisterous, remorseless form. Ed Miliband sought to pin him down on his failure to meet his promise to reduce net migration to "tens of thousands" a year (of which he once declared: "If we don't deliver our side of the bargain, kick us out in five years") and his refusal to commit to the TV debates. But Cameron simply blustered through it at all. Miliband's arguments were by far the stronger but at no point did the PM appear truly uncomfortable. 

On immigration, he declared: "There are two reasons for high migration, one is the growth of our economy and the other is that our benefits system allows people to access that benefits system straight away – I say let’s keep the strong economy and change the benefits system, he wants to keep the benefits system and trash the economy!" As Miliband pressed him on his "no ifs, no buts" promise, Cameron simply listed all the pledges the Tories had met. It was shamelessly evasive but also a reminder of how much easier the better economic news has made these encounters for him. 

He was similarly shameless in the case of the TV debates. Challenged by Miliband to commit to them, he simply replied: "We’re having a debate now" (the traditional riposte of every PM until Gordon Brown). Not even he seemed convinced by his later declaration that he wanted them to happen "before the election" (that is, before the start of the short campaign on 30 March). Never have the debates appeared more doomed. As Labour sources briefed after the exchanges: “Behind the scenes Cameron’s team are doing everything they can to scupper the negotiations and sink the debates.”

As so often, Cameron couldn't resist a jibe at Ed Balls (a man with whom he is peculiarly obsessed) but this time at least he had a half-decent joke prepared. "He told us he was a long, slow burn," he said in reference to Balls's bedroom habits. "But I have to say the only thing lying in ashes is Labour’s economic credibility." 

One final point worth noting from today's session was Cameron's refusal to rule out again raising tuition fees. Asked by Labour's Seema Malhotra to do so, he did not even offer a token "no plans" assurance. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Newsgroup Newspapers Ltd/Published with permission
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Everything that is wonderful about The Sun’s HMS Global Britain Brexit boat

And all who sail in her.

Just when you’d suffered a storm called Doris, spotted a sad Ukip man striding around the Potteries in top-to-toe tweed, watched 60 hours of drama about the Queen being a Queen and thought Britain couldn’t get any more Brexity, The Sun on Sunday has launched a boat called HMS Global Britain.


Photo: Newsgroup Newspapers Ltd/Photos published with permission from The Sun

Taking its name from one of Theresa May’s more optimistic characterisations of the UK post-Europe (it’s better than “Red, white and blue Brexit”, your mole grants), this poor abused vessel is being used by the weekend tabloid to host a gaggle of Brexiteers captained by Michael Gove – and a six-foot placard bearing the terms of Article 50.

Destination? Bloody Brussels, of course!

“Cheering MPs boarded HMS Global Britain at Westminster before waving off our message on a 200-mile voyage to the heart of the EU,” explains the paper. “Our crew started the journey at Westminster Pier to drive home the clear message: ‘It’s full steam ahead for Brexit.’”

Your mole finds this a wonderful spectacle. Here are the best bits:

Captain Michael Gove’s rise to power

The pinnacle of success in Brexit Britain is to go from being a potential Prime Minister to breaking a bottle of champagne against the side of a boat with a fake name for a publicity stunt about the policy you would have been enacting if you’d made it to Downing Street. Forget the experts! This is taking back control!


 

“God bless her, and all who sail in her,” he barks, smashing the bottle as a nation shudders.

The fake name

Though apparently photoshopped out of some of the stills, HMS Global Britain’s real name is clear in The Sun’s footage of the launch. It is actually called The Edwardian, its name painted proudly in neat, white lettering on its hull. Sullied by the plasticky motorway pub sign reading “HMS Global Britain” hanging limply from its deck railings. Poor The Edwardian. Living in London and working a job that involves a lot of travel, it probably voted Remain. It probably joined the Lib Dems following the Article 50 vote. It doesn’t want this shit.

The poses

All the poses in this picture are excellent. Tory MP Julian Brazier’s dead-eyed wave, the Demon Headmaster on his holidays. Former education minister Tim Loughton wearing an admiral’s hat and toting a telescope, like he dreamed of as a little boy. Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns’ Tim Henman fist of regret. Labour MP Kate Hoey’s cheeky grin belied by her desperately grasping, steadying hand. Former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale’s jolly black power salute. And failed Prime Ministerial candidate Michael Gove – a child needing a wee who has proudly found the perfect receptacle.

The metaphor

In a way, this is the perfect representation of Brexit. Ramshackle, contrived authenticity, unclear purpose, and universally white. But your mole isn’t sure this was the message intended by its sailors… the idea of a Global Britain may well be sunk.

I'm a mole, innit.