Coffee House

PMQs sketch: An old-fashioned punch-up between Cameron and Miliband

2 April 2014

Cameron, the king of the mood swings, was on typical form today. He veers between calmness and rage with alarming rapidity. The pattern is always the same. He deals reasonably with Miliband’s opening questions but the mercury starts to rise at around Question Four, and his temper reaches straitjacket level on Question Six.

He called Ed Miliband and Ed Balls ‘the two muppets’ for mismanaging the Royal Mail while in office. Their bungling cost the exchequer billions, he said. And they didn’t dare privatise the firm for fear of antagonising angry posties and union bosses.

Miliband accused Cameron of flogging the company cheap to enrich the Square Mile. At today’s valuation it might have raised an extra £1.4bn.

Cameron sounded a bit sheepish. ‘Shares are trading ahead of where they were sold,’ he conceded. And Miliband produced evidence of a capitalist plot. A cabal of favoured investors had made a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ to retain their shares but they flogged them as soon as the price spiked.

Bankers not gentlemanly? Well I never.

Oddly the Royal Mail plays well for both leaders. They can indulge in the cartoon-strip politics that passes for debate. Miliband becomes a plastic gonk being tossed from one trade union thug to another. And Cameron is portrayed as a double agent of City financiers sent into politics to drain blood from the poor and use it to made black pudding for fatcats.

The distortions really took hold when Miliband hinted that the fire-sale was unnecessary.

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Cameron leapt in. ‘A privatisation no one wanted!?’ he yelped. ‘But it was in the Labour manifesto.’

Behind him the Tories went off like a minor earthquake. The two Eds shook their heads at each other. Subsequent research revealed that Labour’s manifesto carried no promise of a sell off. All too late. Damage done.

Cameron calmed down during backbench questions. But as the session drew to a close the red mist rolled in.

He was asked about sick Taffies fleeing Welsh hospitals and throwing themselves on the mercy of English doctors.

‘A scandal!’ raged Cameron. He blamed Labour for cutting NHS funding in Wales. Then he spotted something.

‘Why is the opposition leader laughing? If he had any backbone he’d get hold of the first minister and tell him to start investing.’

A query about tuition fees caused another detonation. Cameron quoted a Miliband promise to publish his tuition fee policy ‘this year.’ But that was in 2010.

‘I know he’s got an empty head and a blank sheet of paper,’ snarled the pit-bull, ‘but he really ought to get on with it.’

It’s lucky Cameron’s already got the top job. If he were in opposition, critics would accuse him of lacking dignity and composure and ‘not looking like a prime minister.’

His best and most bitter dig at Miliband was over alleged splits within Labour.

‘They’re weak and warring,’ he said. ‘No wonder they’re looking for a new team.’

The idea that plotters are preparing the condolence books and choosing the hymns for Miliband’s memorial service will greatly hearten the Tories. And it should send a bolt of fear through Labour’s ranks

Were Miliband bound for Number 10 he ought to be cresting the zenith of a large poll-lead by now. But the party leaders are neck and neck. And one neck is on the block.

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  • ohforheavensake

    Just out of interest- the Yougov tracking poll has Labour back up at 6 points ahead; the gap’s been growing steadily through the week.

    Post budget bounce is fading, it seems.

    • Epimenides

      YouGov is the polling arm of the Labour party so what do expect?

  • DWWolds

    Like so much of what happened during its tenure in office
    Labour has amnesia about its own record on privatisation not least in the case
    of Qinteq, the defence research service.

    As a George Monbiot article in the Guardian reported, in2002 the American firm Carlyle purchased a 31% stake in Qinteq for £42m. On privatisation 4 years later that stakesoared in value by 840%. Carlyle thensold half those shares for around £351m. The Chairman who paid £129,000 for his share in the company saw that
    increase in value to £27m. It seems thevalue of the company was boosted by a large contract from the MoD signed on the day that Carlyle paid for its share.

    And the comment of the then Defence Procurement Minister, Lord [Paul] Drayson, on this? That itwas a model for future privatisations!

    To compound the insult Carlyle bought its shares through a “special purpose vehicle” based in Guernsey and so did not pay tax on its profits.

    But Drayson had form. After 9/11 the Labour Government decided it wanted to stock up on smallpoxvaccine and in particular the Lister strain.
    Soon after Drayson and a group of other executives had had breakfast at Downing
    Street, British officials visited a firm called Bavarian Nordic, the onlycompany to have sufficient stocks of this vaccine. They were told that the British distribution
    rights had just been bought by a firm called Powerjet, the Chief Executive of which
    was none other than Drayson. Powderjet was founded by his father-in-law, a substantial donor to the Labour Party.

    In 2003 Drayson sold his stake in Powderjet for £542m. In 2004 he was given a life peerage by Tony Blair.

    As Monbiot wrote: “Labour’s first full-scale privatisationinvolves the multiple fleecing of the taxpayer.”

    He added: “So here we have a privatisation – the first full-scale privatisation Tony Blair’s government has carried out – which has allowed a US investment company to walk off with hundreds of millions of poundsof free money; much of which will be tax exempt. It has been assisted by 25 years of guaranteed income from the government and the possible shedding of liabilities. It is overseen by a man who first came to public notice as a result of a defence procurement deal surrounded by controversy, and who now turns up as minister for defence procurement. Does anyone agree that this is a“good model for future privatisations.”

  • max

    Cameron’s days are numbered.

    • Mynydd

      Don’t say that leave him there so he can get a good kicking in 2015.

      • DavEd CamerBand

        I’d happily give him one now.

  • MirthaTidville

    Good God, for once I find myself agreeing with Dave….His description of the two ED`s as muppets…to be fair its only what we Coffee Housers have been saying for years, but better late than never for his acknowledgement , all the same

    • crackenthorp

      you are bonkers

      • MirthaTidville

        Do you mean the two Ed`s are not muppets?? which case, its you sir who are bonkers

        • crackenthorp

          if you really believe this then you need to see a doctor

          • MirthaTidville

            Quad Scripti Scripti

            • crackenthorp

              and alvar liddell to you

    • Gary Wintle

      Cameron abjectly failed to answer the question about the “Gentleman’s Agreement”, he also failed to explain why the taxpayer lost out, while George Osborne’s best chum got a massive windfall.

  • James Strong

    If Cameron’s mood swings are genuine and not just posturing in the absurd dramafarce of PMQs then he is not fit to be Prime Minister.
    Someone with mood swings as severe as Cameron’s appear to be should not be entrusted with difficult and important decisions.
    Of course, if he is just posturing then you might come to the conclusion that he is not fit to be Prime Minister, but reach that conclusion from a different route.

    • Liberty

      Keep your hair on. He was acting.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. A few more of these should see them through to the next GE without having to work too hard at faking different philosophies.

    • telemachus

      But it did signify something
      The dignity thing
      Cameron is hardly the man we wish to acknowledge as leader of our great nation

      • Colonel Mustard

        Hee-hee. Tory win of 5%. The only guarantee is a permanently unelected Lib Dem government.

        • Mynydd

          Stephen Tall is Co-editor of Liberal Democrat Voice so he would not have read the YouGov/Sunday Times poll (30 March 2014) which give; Con 33% Lab 40% Lib Dem 9%

          • Colonel Mustard

            We’ll see.

            • telemachus

              I have spotted another for assimilation

              • Colonel Mustard

                You deserve each other. Go for it. After tonight it doesn’t matter. Your project is history.

                • telemachus

                  Hubris or triumphalism?

        • crackenthorp

          you are mad

          • Colonel Mustard

            Don’t be like that.

            • crackenthorp

              but you are barking

              • Colonel Mustard

                Don’t be like that.

                • crackenthorp

                  well stop being so party political, this blog is not the Conservative Party mouthpiece

                • MirthaTidville

                  You will find more UKIP supporters on here these days..Now sod off back to LiebourHome, the village is missing its idiot

                • crackenthorp

                  now i know what UKIP stands for and it is not printable on here but you like to engage in the language of the gutter

              • Ooh!MePurse!

                What are your arguments? All you ever seem to do is attempt to insult people.

                • crackenthorp

                  i do not insult sane people but some individuals on here are incoherent and cannot accept other people’s point of view

                • Ooh!MePurse!

                  All based on your opinion. The posters you have attempted to insult are not ‘incoherent’.

                • crackenthorp

                  but they are

                • Epimenides

                  Quite right – they are worse.

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