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PMQs sketch: Miliband has ‘one of those days’

27 February 2013

What a strange PMQs. The house seemed half empty. The tug of elsewhere dominated proceedings. Richard Drax asked the prime minister if ‘prospective members of parliament’ should ever speak in support of terrorism. 

David Cameron took this cue to rebuke John O’Farrell. Labour’s candidate at Eastleigh has admitted to feeling ‘a surge of excitement’ when he learned that the IRA had nearly assassinated Mrs Thatcher in the Brighton bomb. Cameron asked Ed Miliband to condemn his candidate. Miliband refused.

‘If he wants me to answer questions I’ll swap places any time.’

Miliband’s aim today was to turn the triple-A downgrade into a government-breaking issue. It didn’t work. A well-rehearsed Cameron threw every argument back at him.

‘If there’s a problem with excessive borrowing, why is it Labour’s policy to borrow more?’

Miliband had one of those days. He fluffed several lines. At times he sounded like a poorly sequenced robot. And he blundered into a humiliation entirely of his own making. The prime minister quoted a New Statesman article claiming that ‘Miliband’s critique of the government will never win back public trust.’

Miliband was amazed to hear Cameron relying on the authority of a magazine which is as old as Labour itself. But his wording was ill-judged.


‘He’s scraping the barrel,’ he told the prime minister, ‘by quoting the New Statesman.’
Swift and brutal came Cameron’s retaliation. ‘He says “scraping the barrel.” The New Statesman was the only paper to endorse his leadership.’

The Tories crowed. Labour squirmed. Miliband, now stumbling like a concussed middleweight, could barely find breath for his closing attack. ‘This downgraded government,’ he huffed. ‘This downgraded prime minister.’

Cameron, by contrast, was skipping to and fro like Rumpelstiltskin when he rattled off this alliterative screed about Labour. ‘They sold the gold, bust the banks and racked up the deficit. And never said sorry for any of it.’

Edward Leigh, in by-election mode, reminded the House that only a Tory vote would guarantee an in-out EU referendum after 2015. Cameron urged all Tories to help Maria Hutchings in her Eastleigh campaign.

The Hampshire constituency is already heaving with supporters from every party. Labour are there to win the unwinnable. Lib Dems are there to defend the indefensible. And Tories are there to chuck mud at the unmissable. Nick Clegg and Co. offer a very juicy target at the moment. Tuition-fee traitors, traffic-offence dodgers, course-of-justice perverters, and now, for good measure, activist-gropers. Too good an opportunity to pass up.

And the bilious by-election mood infected all parts of the House. Every mention of Maria Hutchings prompted calls of ‘Sarah Palin’ from Chris Bryant. He was brusquely asked to stop by the Speaker. Cameron agreed. He turned directly to Mr Bercow. ‘If you have any luck getting the honourable member for Rhondda to shut up I’d like to know how it’s done.’

Bercow fumed at this chummy mode of address – ‘you!’ He glared at the prime minister. ‘I won’t need him to phone me. I’ll phone him.’

‘Ooh. Ooh-oooh!’ called the Tories at this hoity-toity answer.

Bercow’s attempts to protect his dignity always seem to sabotage it. Emboldened by this bungle, Cameron then ripped up the PMQs rule book. Instead of restricting himself to government business, he took another swipe at O’Farrell. The Eastleigh hopeful isn’t just an IRA fan, he’s an Argie lover as well. Referring to the Falklands, he once mused that, ‘Great Britain should lose a war for the sake of Great Britain.’

Tories fell into ecstasies of disapproval. Even if Eastleigh is lost, the adrenalin-surge will have fortified their spirits. And the Lib Dems, will take little pleasure from victory in such bruising circumstances. Throughout the session Nick Clegg slumped against his seat like a collapsed umbrella. His bland, handsome features looked positively nauseous.

Perhaps his face could do with a touch-up. 

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  • David Ossitt

    “His bland, handsome features looked positively nauseous.”

    I am so pleased that he looked positively nauseous because the very sight of his smug puffy face has the rest of us reaching for the sick bag.

    What I find truly offensive and the cause of a rise in bile, is that this awful man will lie and lie at every opportunity and on almost every subject but expect as if by right that nobody should point out his dissimulations.

    He quite obviously has no concept of honour but then he is a LibDem and honour and LibDem’s are not and never have been happy bedfellows.

    • adam_01

      Not in terms of most of their leaders since 1983 save Shirley Williams and Ming Campbell. I suspect this is because the others are foisted into power without any power-wielding experience. Even a banker would do a better job.

  • Magnolia

    Yes Mr Mili was awful and yes Dave was great and yes Mr creepy features put on his yellow tie for the by-election but the really important bit of the Daily Politics programme today, wasn’t this pantomime stuff but the political interview that AN did before PMQs when the EU trade commissioner explained that the EU was first and foremost a political project rather than a monetary union and when he said that democracy is in difficulties when a courageous politician like Mario Monti, who is doing the right thing with austerity, gets outvoted in the Italian election (reaction) by the anti EU candidate.
    I felt scared when I heard this expressed so openly. AN deserves much praise for this interview and his charming, fox terrier approach and patience worked wonders.

  • Deepsnoozer

    And back in the real world.. ‘Junior partners’ in 1940, the Omnishambles budget, double dip recession and loss of AAA credit rating..

  • alabenn

    Miliband has ‘one of those days’
    Mr Evans he has them seven days a week, he is a walking corpse kept alive by people like you and that Riddle woman who project on to him the traits needed to lead a country, these are imaginary, they will never have substance, nor will he.

  • nick porter

    Cameron has just shot himself in both feet.The New Statesman can write 1 critical article per week onTory policy .Milliband can open question time each week by asking him about it. Could possibly continue for the rest of the Parliament.

    • AamirK

      .. to which Cameron can then respond that he is scraping the bottom of the barrell

      • realfish

        In endorsing Miliband, Minor, perhaps the Staggers was scraping the bottom of the barrel.

  • davybush

    Milliband will be the next PM. Tories had better get used to the idea.

    • DWWolds

      Want to bet?

    • Colonel Mustard

      God help Britain then.

    • Hexhamgeezer

      Well he’s got the IRA vote sewn up.

    • fubar_saunders

      Cue sovereign debt crisis, mass unemployment, mass immigration, more Labour sleaze, more of the same that we had from 97 to 2010. Great. Just what the country needs….. not.

      If the mugs vote for those champagne socialist idiots, they deserve everything they get.

    • Marchmain

      The problem for Millibee is not just what he says but the voice he says it with – as my better half, obviously an astute judge of manhood, opines “He just doesn’t have it”

  • thesickmanofeurope_com

    Isn’t publicly supporting terrorism or a terrorist act a criminal offense?
    Or is it only a crime when some Islamic nutter does so?
    O’Farrell should be behind bars…..

    • adam_01

      I think the CPS took the wrong view too, if they actually were asked by the police to investigate. Perhaps they took the view that “surge of excitement” was merely to the news story for Irish Republicanism from an Irish Catholic stock man. I think O’Farrell should have kicked his political career into the long grass after speaking of such a “surge”.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Edward Leigh, in by-election mode, reminded the House that only a Tory
    vote would guarantee an in-out EU referendum after 2015. Cameron urged
    all Tories to help Maria Hutchings in her Eastleigh campaign.

    But only UKIP will guarantee us out of the EU……………..

  • lgrundy

    Ed Miliband is unlikely to condemn a prospectice member of paliament for speaking in defence of terrorism when his own brother, David Miliband, said that terrorism was “justifiable” in certain circumstances *while serving as Foreign Secretary*

    David Miliband defends Marxist terrorism

  • Ray Veysey

    Still flogging the Referendum lie I see, he must think we are awful fools.

  • Paula2

    A candidate that effectively endorses the IRA mainland bomb campaign and relished the prospect of the facist junta in Argentina that were kidnapping the children of its critics to be adopted by its supporters and had killed 40,000 trade unionists, students and political activists ruling the Fakkland Islands is sickening.

    That he has not recanted his views is shameful. Shameful.

    • James Strong

      I rarely watch PMQs but today I saw Millband refuse the invitation to condemn O’Farrell’s support for IRA bombing.
      Shameful, disgraceful and, if I hadn’t seen it I wouldn’t have believed it.
      What was he thinking? Does he come with his questions so tighltly rehearsed that he can’t respond off the cuff? That’s pretty bad.
      Or does he think that O’Farrell’s comments do not need to be condemned? That is appalling and would make him not fit for office.

    • realfish

      And bizarrely the UKIP candidate supported O’Farrell saying that any criticism of his was puerile.

      • adam_01

        I note no-one seeks to defend the UKIP candidate. That is because “puerile” does not amount to the truth: “inciting crimes of various sorts”, even if spoken to get effect. It’s only as he was a lefty commentator he got away with it. Back then even today he should have been facing magistrates.

  • Span Ows

    “Edward Leigh, in by-election mode”…E Leigh re Eastleigh?

  • Chris lancashire

    Miliband is more of a concussed lightweight rather than middleweight.

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