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  1. Politics
3 June 2015

PMQs review: Cameron in charge as he lashes Labour over “aspiration“

The PM effortlessly controlled the first session of the new term. 

By George Eaton

If Labour needed a reminder of how great the task ahead of it is, today’s PMQs provided it. David Cameron effortlessly commanded the first session of the new parliament. Harriet Harman challenged him over the decline in home ownership – a bid to claim centrist territory – but the PM turned the tables by attacking Labour’s stance on the Right to Buy (for housing association tenants). “As ever, the enemies of aspiration in the Labour party won’t support it,” he declared. Harman was right to warn of the danger that sold-off homes will not replaced (as in the past). But the Labour leadership candidates’ monomaniacal focus on “aspiration” makes it harder for such pragmatic objections to be accepted.

Similarly on welfare, while he failed to definitively rule out cuts to child benefit and tax credits, he soon recovered his poise by challenging Harman over how Labour would vote on the reduced benefit cap (which remains unclear). Visibly enjoying his first session as a majority prime minister, Cameron waited just two minutes before cracking his first joke at Ed Balls’s expense. “There were a number of results in his part of Yorkshire that I took a particular interest in and was pleased to see happen,” he told one Tory backbencher in reference to his nemeses’ defeat in Morley and Outwood. More – and better – was to follow. “It’s extraordinary, the two people responsible for this great policy of theirs, one lost the election, the other lost his seat. The messengers have gone but the message is still the same!” he cried, a wounding attack that will aid Liz Kendall’s cause in the Labour leadership election. The ease with which Cameron berated Harman over her party’s past record may convince more in the party that only a post-2010 MP can make progress. 

The most challenging moment for Cameron came when Andrew Mitchell asked him to rule out withdrawing the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights. Significantly, he replied that he ruled out “absolutely nothing” – a far tougher stance than recently adopted by ministers.  

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