Syria overshadowed PMQs today. The chamber was quiet and sombre. And both leaders were clearly about to do their world-statesman bit. Ed Miliband rose to his feet with an air of ineffable goodness. He looked like St Peter on his way to donate the dead Judas’s sandals to a charity shop.
He asked about Britain’s readiness to accept Syrian refugees in accordance with a UN directive.
Britain, said Cameron, is already the second largest donor to Syria. And the crisis can’t be solved by few hundred refugee placements. Miliband used two more questions to press the case for ‘orphans who had lost both parents.’ Cameron said he was prepared to ‘listen to the arguments’.
‘I feel we are gradually inching forward on this issue,’ said Miliband. And he allowed himself a little smile of fatigue and contempt. It said a lot, that smile. It affirmed the Labour view that Cameron’s moral turpitude is an ongoing calamity which can only be remedied by a general mobilisation of Britain’s most high-minded and progressive citizens. They’re all Labour supporters, of course. And it’s to them that Miliband is appealing more and more.
He treated the economy in the same lofty way. When he spoke he wore a look of magnificent scorn tempered with long-suffering pity. But his woes are deepening as the recovery takes hold. He’s like a dad who’s been given a sick puppy for Christmas and who keeps praying that the damn thing will curl up and die in the airing cupboard. But it’s started bouncing around all over the furniture. And the kids love it. And it’s making him look like a killjoy.
Miliband was forced to welcome today’s fall in unemployment. This triggered a small frenzy of Tory jeers. Miliband stood his ground and stared back, trying to look impassive. But the small jeers turned into massive ones so he retreated to his comfort-zone which is co-extensive with the moral high ground, ‘Just braying like that doesn’t do anyone any good,’ he said in his bored-teacher voice.
He claimed that Cameron had given lazy millionaires a bonus while stealing £1600 from toiling mums and dads.
Distortion, countered Cameron. The figure of £1600 excludes the rises in tax thresholds.
Next Miliband went for another headline-grabber. He claimed that 13 million of us are living in poverty. How did the prime minister explain that? Cameron omitted to point the finger at the draughtsman who put the Poverty Line in the wrong place. Britain has the richest paupers in the world. There are Nikes, iPods, wide-screen TVs and buckets of fried chicken in every household. Hospitals, dentists, schools and pensions are available to everyone. It’s amazing we can face penury on this scale with such cheerful stoicism.
Instead Cameron accused Labour of creating the biggest slump in 100 years. And he wondered why Miliband is always moaning about crises he personally authored.
‘He’s like an arsonist who starts fire after fire and complains that the fire brigade aren’t putting them out fast enough.’
The prime minister, scolded Miliband, had no understanding of ordinary people. ‘The Bullingdon club routine,’ he called it. It appears that Cameron’s membership of a dressing-up society for insecure twerps can still be treated as proof of his allegiance with Satan. Really, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Mr Cameron spent his gap-year working as a volunteer prison guard on Robben Island.
Miliband is running out of arguments. And today his attack boiled down to this.
‘Ok, rich-boy, you fixed the economy but I’m a still a better person than you.’