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Cameron tries to turn Miliband’s microscope off

29 June 2011

Having been stumped by Miliband’s focus on detail in the past two PMQs, Cameron
came prepared today. He was determined to highlight the fact that the Labour leader wasn’t asking about the big picture.

So after Miliband had asked a series of questions about the nuts and bolts of NHS reforms, Cameron used his final answer to launch into Miliband. ‘He can’t ask about strikes because he
is in the pockets of the union’, he started. He rattled off a series of other great issues of the day on which Miliband was silent, building up towards his conclusion with the line‘ he
has to talk about the micro because he can’t talk about the macro.’ Then, the Speaker cut the Prime Minister off. For half a second, Cameron stood there disbelieving, hand on hip,
staring at the Speaker before he resumed his seat.

This was not the only clash of the session between Bercow and Cameron.  In answer to one of the final questions, Cameron gave a long answer detailing all that was being done to tackle crime in
London only for Bercow to remark, in a rather snippy tone, that PMQs is ‘principally for backbenchers’. I suspect that we’ll soon, again, hear Tories muttering about what to do
with the Speaker. 

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Show comments
  • Kathryn J

    Every week without fail Bercow states that the public hate the shouts and woops of MPs in PMQs. Does he not realise that what the public hates is Bercow interrupting when he has no reason to, and using his authority as Speaker to gain more TV time. Miliband needs someone to teach him how to do PMQs properly..and preferrably without leaking the memo to the press afterwards..although it does make for some funny news the next day.

  • Sacre Bleu

    As a Speaker Bercow is increasingly intrusive and incompetent, loves the sound of his own voice and position – small man syndrome perhaps? and his predecessor Gorbals Mick was no great shakes either. Bring back Betty, best speaker in the HoC for many years.

  • Ron Todd

    Micro policy detail should be mainly delt with in the relavent committe.

    PMQs is not there as a test of the PMs memory.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Maggie : 1.42pm

    “A conspiracy theorist might conclude that Bercow and Miliband have conspired together to render Prime Minister’s Questions a pointless nitpicking waste of time.”

    I don’t think it needed either Bercow or Miliband to achieve this, and it’s not necessary to be a conspiracy theorist to recognise it. The antics at Prime Minister’s Questions have demeaned high political office for at least the last 30 years, in addition to being a complete and utter waste of time.

  • Archibald

    The continued focus of Ed on the sort of detail no PM would be expected to know is faintly ludicrous. To persist with it 3 times in a row betrays his total lack of ideas. That he has any support from the left at all amazes me, as ‘their man’ has pinned his colours firmly on the fence, and hung the unions out to dry.

    You often hear people in opposition being criticized for having no answers, only questions. Ed doesn’t even have those.

    To be fair, if you have no principles to stand up for, you can see how one might seek solace in pointless nit-picking. But as he said himself only a couple of days ago, Labour cannot go on like this.

  • toni

    I’m sure Cameron would love to ‘turn Miliband’s microscope off’, clever play on words btw, but it won’t happen and Miliband is effectively and publically undermining Cameron’s credibility on the NHS in two areas so far; that he had promised no top down re-organisation, and a ‘bonfire of the quangoes’, which resulted in Cameron’s furious red faced gabbling response.
    Pointing up Cameron’s laziness/incompetence in getting down to the hard work of assimilating the brief and it’s consequences should be of concern to everyone, and under a different PM would be, even for the defensive Cameroonies here.

  • Chris lancashire

    Milliband’s “micro” questioning worked the first time. Three times is two too many.

  • Maggie

    Cameron’s micro/macro observation could only have been pre-scripted if he had known in advance that Ed was going to hone in on boring statistical minutiae again. Cameron probably couldn’t believe his ears when Ed started off on the same old strategy.

  • REPay

    I am sorry this was not just detail. The NHS reforms now sound costly in terms of new bodies…and will have thrown more doubt on the top down reform we were told would not happen. It makes it hard for people like me to support reform though i am convined the NHS needs something doing to it!

  • Maggie

    Perhaps its Ed’s eastern european antecedents that cause him to view politics from a statisticians point of view. I bet if anyone was interested enough to ask him he could reel off all the tractor stats for his constituency. He’ll look silly if he can’t.

  • Andy

    Thing is, I can’t remember the Speaker doing the same to Bruin when he was slagging off Cameron

  • tomdaylight

    – it would have been fine if off-the-cuff, but it was clearly a scripted answer, so Cameron needs better help preparing for PMQs.

  • Jambo

    The reason he was cut off is that his answer had nothing to do with the question asked. Bercow is quite right to do so and it should have been done to Brown and Blair as well.

  • tomdaylight

    The “micro/macro” line was terribly phrased and would go over most people’s heads.

  • Jane

    I personally do not consider having detailed policy questions interesting. It reminds me of GB as Chancellor at Treasury Questions – huge amount of detail but a total switch off. I am also unsure if this is tactically right as the majority of people do not expect a PM to have detailed knowledge of every aspect of policy.

    I was a fan of John Bercow when he was on the Back Benches. I think he is a good speaker but on occasion likes the sound of his own voice. This is a difficult issue for the PM and he needs to be careful not to show his disdain. One of the opposition ministers has tweeted that he had a furious expression when he was stopped in his tracks. At the same time John Bercow needs to watch his step to ensure impartiality and a general unease that he sees PMQs as his show.

  • TrevorsDen

    For backbenchers?
    Why is the opposition leader allowed 6 questions and the LD leader (when in opposition) 2?

    Bercow is talking cobblers right from the off.

  • luke

    Cameron’s attack on Miliband being silent on the strikes rather spoilt I feel by the fact Miliband wont shut up about the strikes being a mistake

  • Maggie

    The Speaker’s bad-tempered shouty interruptions were an absolute disgrace. A conspiracy theorist might conclude that Bercow and Miliband have conspired together to render Prime Minister’s Questions a pointless nitpicking waste of time.

  • TNC

    I may be wrong, but I understood that Bercow’s remark about PMQ’s being primarily for backbenchers referred to the Clive Efford’s (Shadow Home Office Minister) question on policing, which prompted Cameron’s lengthy response.

  • David Morris

    The Speaker is not a member of a political party, which means Cameron has little or no control over the position. Bercow repeatedly mentions that concise answers are important. He is well within his rights to cut short the PM’s response, so that there is more time for backbench questions.

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