After Chloe Smith’s disastrous interview on Newsnight last night, today’s PMQs saw David Cameron suffer his own car-crash moment. In response to the government’s latest U-turn on fuel duty, Ed Miliband dug out a brilliant quote from Cameron in which the Prime Minister declared that he would defend “every part” of the Budget having worked on it “line-by-line” with George Osborne. Cameron’s response that “it cannot be a U-turn to get rid of a Labour tax increase” fell rather flat because it was a Tory one. He went on to boast that he had “defused” Labour’s tax bombshells, rather forgetting his own “VAT bombshell” (in the words of the Lib Dems).
Today wasn’t one of Miliband’s best peformances but with the aid of Nadine Dorries (who attacked Osborne on Twitter over the Chloe Smith interview) and a brilliant joke about Jimmy Carr, he won an easy victory. Having previously tripped up by describing Dorries as “frustrated”, Cameron had no obvious riposte to the charge that his Chancellor was “a coward” as well as “arrogant”, while Osborne, naturally, looked distinctly uncomfortable. The other high point came when Miliband asked Cameron why he had criticised tax avoidance while cutting taxes for millionaires. “It’s one rule for the comedians on the stage and another for the comedians in the cabinet,” he quipped. So good was the joke that Labour MPs cried “more! more!” as Miliband sat down.
Today’s PMQs also offered us a preview of the line Cameron will take on Labour’s stance on Lords reform. With the party pledged to vote against the procedural motion but in favour of the second reading, Cameron painted Miliband as a ditherer who was simultaneously for and against an elected chamber. This isn’t true, of course, but Labour will need to find a succinct way to explain its opposition to the process but not the principle of Lords reform.