Verdict: Cameron was much more confident today, and probably got the better of Harman – and therefore justified their decision to “bench” Nick Clegg. However the way that Cameron went about today’s PMQs is unlikely to translate well onto the news reports this evening. His response to a question about police cuts was “it depends”, his response to hiring Tory staff into the civil service was to attack Labour spin (incredibly rich with Coulson still in a job, and yesterday’s burying of news) and attacking Labour’s short money spending (when short money tripled whilst the Tories were in opposition).
It will be interesting to see if any of Cameron’s claims unravel. Police numbers in particular are a weak point for the Tories, especially after Cameron denied there would be frontline cuts just days before the election. Increasingly PMQs isn’t won in the chamber, it’s won by the party who can press home their issues in the days that follow it. Expect the party to hammer Cameron over frontline cuts for the rest of the week.
12.32: Cameron says Cable’s view isn’t that RDA abolition is “Maoist and chaotic” – why did he say it then?
12.26: In other news – Labour are now ahead with Ipsos-Mori (CON 36(-3); LAB 39(+3); LIB DEM 14(-)), after taking a 5% lead with YouGov last night.
12.23: The Tories are trying to turn the argument about politicising the civil service on its head by attacking Labour over “short money” (which funds staff in opposition). I’m fairly sure that’s because the Lib Dems are now in government though…
12.18: After last week’s co-ordinated hit on tuition fees, we seem to be back onto local questions today. Floods at present.
12.16: The speaker is being quite rough on the MPs today, and they clearly resent it. However, the attitude of some MPs, especially jeering, has been woeful.
12.14: During that attack on the last government’s spin doctors, Labour MPs were chanting “Coul-son, Coul-son”.
12.12: Harman asks why so much money has been spent on Tory Party staff working on the party payroll. Cameron responds with attacks on the last Labour government. The Tory benches are jeering. This is unedifying.
12.10: Harman is now leading on the cost of elected police commissioners. I’m not sure about this as a line of attack…
12.08: Cameron reads out a list of numbers – like Gordon Brown was often accused of – about numbers of staff in different departments at Greater Manchester Police. It’s a cheap attack on “bureaucracy”, and could unravel…
12.06: The chamber is rowdy again this week, as Cameron says there needs to be “proper debate” over cuts. Harman says constituents will be shocked to hear Tory MPs cheering 20% police cuts.
12.05: Harman hammers Cameron for his comments before the election on frontline cuts. This is another u-turn from Cameron – expect this to be followed up hard by Labour after PMQs.
12.04: Harman leads with police cuts, and asks how many police officers will be cut as a result of 20% real terms cuts to the police. Cameron says it’s up to the individual forces.
12.03: Cameron is given an easy first question/attempt to talk about declining unemployment, which he largely reads from his notes.
12.01: In Remembrance Sunday week, the condolences for fallen soldiers is especially solemn this week. Cameron then goes on to congratulate the royal couple (I bet he does).
11.56: It’s Harriet Harman’s second week covering PMQs for Ed Miliband whilst he’s away on paternity leave. However it seems that Clegg won’t be deputising for the PM this week after the absolute pasting he received at the hands of Harman last week. Cameron’s back today, but does this mean Clegg is running scared of Harriet?