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PMQs sketch: Dave prepares the Fortnums hamper for his food bank visit

30 January 2013

It was the croc that didn’t snap, the firework that failed to fly, the jeroboam that refused to go pop. Last week, David Cameron’s speech on Europe was supposed to heal a two-decade rift within the Tory family and to set Britain on a bold new course in our relationship with the continent. A week later and the great In-Out gamble didn’t rate a mention at PMQs. Not a peep. Not a syllable. Not a whisper. Ed Miliband didn’t bring it up either.

Their mutual silence isn’t hard to explain. Both parties are acting tough but remain vulnerable on the referendum question. Cameron will accuse Miliband of not trusting the voters. Miliband will accuse Cameron’s MPs of not trusting Cameron. Hence the non-aggression pact.

Instead they gave us a bubble-and-squeak debate on economics. It consisted entirely of re-heated slops. Miliband wheedled at the prime minister for failing to revive the economy and Cameron wheedled back that he hadn’t ruined it in the first place. They were like a married couple bickering over a sat-nav error while the car plummets down a mountainside.

Both wanted to bludgeon the other with impressive-sounding quotes. Miliband declared that the IMF’s chief economist had called for ‘a reassessment’ of the UK’s fiscal policy. Cameron rubbished this and said the IMF’s managing director had praised the Coalition for its ‘fiscal consolidation.’ The only result is to undermine the IMF’s credibility. I wonder if anyone will notice.

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Labour’s backbenches had more luck. They’ve been teasing Cameron for ages by asking him if he plans to visit to a food bank. Plump, sleek and pinkish around the chops, the prime minister is extremely sensitive to the charge that he’s a heartless, arrogant, fox-hunting, granny-starving, pleb-thrashing, cripple-whipping posh-boy. And today he surprised his critics with a diary announcement. He plans to visit a free food centre in his own constituency soon. He then ruined things slightly by turning the issue into a gloat. Reliance on food banks, he said, began under Labour and soared tenfold while they were in power.

Cameron’s tricky meeting with his under-fed voters will no doubt be held in secret. The best we can hope for is a sneaked-out phone-clip showing the PM arriving in his plus-fours to donate a Fortnum’s hamper accompanied by a greetings card printed on note-paper from SamCam’s firm wishing his empty-bellied constituents the best of luck during the lean winter months. Or so Labour will hope.

Alex Cunningham found golden wit in the dull topic of nutritional laws. ‘On food safety,’ said the Labour backbencher. ‘May I ask if traces of stalking horse been found in the Conservative food chain?’ A reference to Adam Afriyie’s bumptious leadership plot. Cameron dealt with it ironically.

‘This party has always stood for people who want to work hard and get on. And I’m glad those behind me take that very seriously indeed!’

The session ended with a blood-soaked question from George Galloway. Referring to the latest troop-surge in Mali, he invited the PM to ‘adumbrate the differences between the throat-slitting jihadists’ of north Africa and ‘the equally bloodthirsty jihadist’ in Syria. Easy to answer convincingly but Cameron descended to mere abuse. ‘Wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world, he will have the support of the right honourable gentleman.’

A pity he served up a slur rather than an argument against Galloway who, if nothing else, is a formidable debater.

But Cameron seemed in a hurry to get away. No doubt he was off to Fortnums to fill a silk-lined trunk with luxury edibles for his ravening electorate.

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Show comments
  • dalai guevara

    A chamber that does not represent the people cannot debate issues to the peoples’ satisfaction. The omission to discuss the most over-hyped and supposedly relevant speech in living memory just further emphasises this fact.

  • Whyshouldihavetoregister

    It’s not possible to slur George Galloway. Nor is it necessary to dignify his opinions with argument. Well done, Dave.

  • Colonel Mustard

    It’s funny how in a world of much faux morality and outrage the media have so much apparent difficulty in identifying evil. You give poor old Cameron a tirade of attributed abuse in this article – “the charge” is pure Labour propaganda that you seem to relish repeating – and then castigate him for a spot on observation about the odious Saddam and Ahmadinejad groupie.

  • 2trueblue

    LLoyd, if you can not write without being petty and ruining any chance of what point you were making being recognised, give up.

  • Barbara Stevens

    I watched PM, QT. It was dull up to the end; then we heard the open insult to Gallaway, who of course asks for all he gets with his support to those who kill and maim. Miliband was almost polite today, as was Cameron, but neither were much good. Andrew Neil was more entertaining on the Daily Politics Show.

  • anyfool

    Well Fraser has always wanted a wide range of opinion, he now has left, right and deranged.
    This article is the ranting of a man with a seemingly seething hatred of anyone who can afford a better quality tin of beans than him, his antipathy to the posh boys shows through in all his writings, time for reflections in a dark room for Taffy..

  • Theodoxia

    Cameron has a way of being unpredictable with certain notorious characters. His last response to Denis Skinner, for example, was reasonable and even-handed, showing that he’s able to treat him like that on occasion. Today he treated George Galloway with the contempt in which he is almost universally held, showing that he can adopt that mode as well. And in doing so he speaks for the nation.

  • peterbuss

    Actually I thought the PM’s response to Galloway was spot on.It was not a slur but a simple statement of fact.

  • jason green

    You forgot to mention the Tory MP’s comment likening Miliband to a Victorian undertaker. I found that rather distasteful.

    • realfish

      I thought it well observed.

  • Chris lancashire

    What a gratuitously unpleasant and inaccurate record of PMQs and the last little slur should be beneath you Mr Evans.

    • telemachus

      Which slur?

      After being widely condemned for his remarks about the rape allegations facing Julian Assange, George Galloway was under fire again at the weekend after calling someone a “window-licker” (a derogatory term for a disabled person) in a conversation on Twitter.

      Galloway made the comment during a conversation on Sunday. He tweeted to @Hawfa: “you badly need medical help son. Will decent Rangers fans please substitute this windae-licker … ”

      The tweet was attacked as insensitive by fellow Twitter users and @Skipjack451 wrote: “I wonder what the disabled members of your constituency will make of your use of the slur ‘window licker’? You’re a disaster.”

    • Fergus Pickering

      I don’t think anything is beneath Mr Evans.

      • telemachus

        What is your substance?
        I enjoy Lloyd

  • HooksLaw

    As Ms Hardman pointed out the latest so called troop surge to ‘Mali’ is in effect advisers to the countries surrounding Mali and acting to defend it.
    Camerons answer to the odious Galloway was correct.

    • David Lindsay

      There is only one reason to send in troops.

      It is time for a Commons vote on this.

      • Chris lancashire

        What, just like Iraq?

  • HooksLaw

    A question which proves that Alex Cunningham is not even half as clever as he thinks he is.

    • David Lindsay

      Well, it floored the Prime Minister, as he had to admit.

      • Chris lancashire

        Yep, we’d never have got bully Brown giving that response.

  • David Lindsay

    Of course David Cameron has not read Frankenstein to the end. Of course David Cameron has not read Frankenstein at all. He probably thinks that it is the name of the monster, not of its creator. What does George Galloway imagine the Heir to Blair to be? A working-class autodidact like himself, who says “adumbrate”? Does he not watch Blandings?

    Galloway was absolutely correct that we are encouraging and funding in Syria exactly the sort of people against whom we are gearing up for war in Mali, and defending in Mali a dictatorship hardly, if at all, better than the one in Syria.

    But this will be as nothing when, as will very soon be the case, we are intervening in order to prop up our dear old Hashemite puppet monarchy in the part of Palestine east of the Jordan. Against exactly the same people whom are we are egging on, and rather more than egging on, in and around the Damascene capital of the Levant as a whole.

    • Wessex Man

      David Lindsay, I’m going to have a sit down with a stiff drink I think, I actually agree with you.

    • Fergus Pickering

      How on earth do you know whether David Cameron has read Frankenstein or not?

  • Gary Weightman

    Another completely wrong reading of PMQs from Lloyd Evans. It’s about time The Spectator gave somebody else a chance

    • telemachus

      On the contrary a very fair reflection of the hopeless attempts of Cameron to understand the economy
      It remains absolutely clear that as the IMF Director says we need a reassessment of fiscal policy

      • Fergus Pickering

        So FOR Mr Evans Telemachus. Against Mr Evans 28 and sill counting

        • telemachus

          It is sufficient
          Should you not be annoying the vicar?

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