Coffee House

PMQs: Cameron lands the blows with cheesy jokes

11 September 2013

David Cameron managed to win Prime Minister’s Questions today by shoehorning in a series of smart one-liners about Ed Miliband’s leadership.

It says a lot about how the Prime Minister has managed to recover quite impressively from his defeat over Syria that he has been able to continue his ‘weak’ attack line. On that Thursday night in the Commons when the government lost its vote, it seemed that Cameron was dangerously weakened.

Today he threw out jokes about Miliband having ‘folded faster than a Bournemouth deck chair’, that the Labour leader ‘went to Bournemouth and he completely bottled it’ and that ‘he told us it was going to be Raging Bull, he gave us Chicken Run’. Cheesy, perhaps, but memorable.


Even if Ed Miliband is, as his colleagues hope, playing a long game with the unions of which his TUC speech was an attempt to calm things down rather than a showy confrontation, these jokes from Cameron show what a dangerous distraction the unions issue is for Labour, particularly when the Conservatives are already on a general election war footing.

Cameron also repeated George Osborne’s argument that the Labour had made the wrong calls on all the big economic questions since being in opposition.

By contrast, Ed Miliband didn’t get the memorable lines out. His clearest attack was that David Cameron was a ‘two nation Prime Minister’, which makes sense if you are a student of political history, but might leave normal voters with other preoccupations wondering whether Miliband was talking about Wales or Scotland.

And he scored a good blow on Michael Gove’s comments on food banks (this is the full quote, in case you’re interested: ‘I appreciate that there are families who face considerable pressures. Those pressures are often the result of decisions that they have taken which mean they are not best able to manage their finances. We need to ensure that support is not just financial, and that the right decisions are made.’ – read the full Hansard here) ‘We know what this government thinks about people who go to food banks,’ he said. ‘Because the Children’s Secretary said that people who go to food banks only have themselves to blame.’ When Cameron praised the Education Secretary without repeating or backing his comments, and argued his government didn’t need to take any lectures from Labour on food banks, Miliband returned to the question to hammer it home. ‘The Prime Minister neither defended the Children’s Secretary’s comments, nor distanced himself from them. Let me just tell him – the Children’s Secretary is an absolute disgrace.’ This was a good ‘out-of-touch’ attack, and one that might stick, even if it involved a complete misquoting of Gove’s comments.

One other thing worth noting was the change in dynamic in the Chamber. Labour MPs roared along as Miliband denounced Michel Gove. But they seemed sedated for much of the debate. By contrast, Cameron was able to use questions planted among his backbenchers by the whips to get out some extra attack lines such as the ‘folded faster than a Bournemouth deckchair’ jibe. He certainly still has his enemies in the party, but he is also still enjoying the fervour of a bulk of his backbenchers to go after Labour.

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  • asalord

    Cameron is the joke; people in Scotland in Scotland have known this for years people in England seem to be oblivious to it.

    • Colin Forbes

      Hopefully they’ll see the light and vote for independence so as to be rid of Cameron and his ilk. Would that the rest of us could.

  • London Calling

    Eds speech was flat lining and painful to watch…..the unions chose him………..:{

    As for food parcels, its the sacrifice many have to endure during these hard times, not a life choice as suggested……….poverty is what it is…………….:{

  • Abhay

    ”Raging Bull and Chicken Run”!

    Such literary flourish! Where is Homer (not Simpson, but the ancient bard)?
    Thank Dyaus, he was cremated otherwise he would be trying to turn in his grave.

    It’s strangely mirthful to see the representatives of the metropolitan bourgeois engage in such ‘lethal’ diatribe inside their bubble!!

    • telemachus

      As most of Coffee Housers know Homeric characters have a great deal to contribute to the reasonableness of debate

  • MirthaTidville

    It really is no wonder we have lost our way, in this country, when juvenile slap stick aka PMQ`s starts to pass for politcal debate…

    • HookesLaw

      Yawn. Don’t y’ know its televised now?
      Calm down dear.

    • Shinsei1967

      It’s only 30 minutes once a week. MPs evidently enjoy it. I enjoy it. Try watching the Scottish Parliament’s Questions to First Minister if you want a worthy snoozefest.

      There’s an entire TV channel of wall-to-wall committee meetings and speeches & questions about the passage of esoteric bills if you want to watch the serious stuff.

  • tmcleod

    Ed Miliband and Labour have been wrong about every aspect of economic recovery. Totally incompetent, weak and unfit for government.

    • Will Rees

      Having caused the bubble by moving house prices out of the inflation index and created the regulatory environment for the 08 crisis to happen . It was quite unlikely that the people who didn’t think falling down the hole was anything to do with them would be right on how to get out of it.

  • Mynydd

    So now we must judge PMQ by who is the best Stand-up comic.

    • Shinsei1967

      If pre-prepared jokes then no. But humour is a useful weapon and sign of an agile mind.

      Cameron seems much better at thinking on his feet than the rather wooden Ed.

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