New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Election 2024
26 October 2011

PMQs review: Miliband pins Cameron down on Europe

Which EU powers does he want back and when? Cameron couldn't answer.

By George Eaton

A particularly ill-tempered PMQs today, with David Cameron hurling abuse at Ed Miliband in a bid to remind his MPs that it’s the Labour leader, not him, they should be attacking. “The split that we have is between the Rt Hon Gentleman and reality,” cried the Prime Minister, branding Miliband a “complete mug” for not wanting to repatriate powers from Europe.

But while the PM has pledged to bring back powers, he hasn’t, as Miliband smartly noted, said which powers and when. To add to the confusion, Nick Clegg has declared: “It’s not going to happen … You don’t change Europe by launching some smash-and-grab dawn raid on Brussels.” What is the government’s policy? Cameron clearly didn’t want to answer the question because he absurdly attacked Miliband for moving on “to the politics”, as if the subject had no place in the House of Commons. He eventually replied that the government had already withdrawn Britain from the EU bailout fund and that Miliband had once said of the possibility of Britain joining the euro: “It depends how long I’m prime minister for”.

All good knockabout stuff but not, you suspect, the answer that the 81 EU rebels were looking for. They have already warned Cameron against raising unrealistic expectations by vowing to repatriate powers within the lifetime of this parliament. As Miliband noted, the coalition agreement offers no clarity on this point, promising only a “referendum lock” on any future EU treaties. Cameron can’t say which powers he wants back because to do so would enrage either the Lib Dems or the Tories (or possibly both).

But despite his smart line of questioning, this didn’t feel like a victory for the Labour leader. By the end, Cameron’s arsenal of insults (“I might have had a problem on Monday, I think he’s got a problem on Wednesday) had roused the Tory backbenches and Labour’s own lack of clarity meant several of Miliband’s attack lines fell flat. For now, there is little to be gained for either leader in arguing about Europe.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
Peatlands are nature's unsung climate warriors
How the apprenticeship levy helps small businesses to transform their workforce
How to reform the apprenticeship levy