PMQs Verdict: Is anyone surprised by David Cameron’s scripted flippancy?

27th February, 2013 2:35 pm

Sometimes an entire PMQs is summed up by one excuse. Occasionally that’s because there has been a superb point made, or a slice of rapier-like wit has clearly won the day. But more often it’s because the whole session was a bit dull, with the exception of one slightly less dull thing. Today was very much of the latter.

Most of the comment in the Westminster/media bubble has been about Ed Miliband’s less than tactful response (“scraping the barrel”) when asked about Anthony Seldon’s recent hatchet job on Ed Balls. What Miliband obviously meant was that pulling out newspaper or magazine columns to attack Labour was “scraping the barrel” – but it evidently came across as an attack on the Staggers, regardless of intention. Fortunately they’ve taken it in good humour.

That Cameron would stoop to quoting an open letter/attack piece from a magazine with the history of the New Statesman should have come as no surprise to seasoned PMQs observers. After all this is someone who has previously quoted Luke Bozier and referenced Matt Zarb-Cousin’s tweets at PMQs. No quote is too small for the Prime Minister…

Yet this week the most engaging sections of the “debate” were with backbenchers. Not the back and forth between Cameron and his colleagues (those questions were deathly dull, and featured the word “Eastleigh” as if sampled on a loop), but those with the Labour backbenchers. Alas none of them thought to deviate away from their scripted questions to ask why David Cameron was sat next to the homophobic Welsh secretary, but there were poigniant questions on the Bedroom Tax and the disabled, culminating in perhaps the most inaccurate statement Cameron has ever made at PMQS (a heck of an achievement):

“This government always puts disabled people first” 

If only that were true Mr Cameron, but unlike your scripted remarks bashing Ed Balls, that was presumably a slip of the tongue, because the evidence points towards the disabled being disproportionately hit. Shame on you. Perhaps next week instead of boning up on the latest columns in lefty magazines, or the latest tweets from Labour researchers, you might want to read up on the impact your government’s cuts are having on the disabled…

  • Colin McCulloch

    Well said, Mark.

  • Monkey_Bach

    Cameron is so evasive, answering every question fielded by Miliband with a question of his own, perhaps Prime Minister’s Questions ought to be renamed Leader of the Opposition’s Questions. Eeek.

  • Mike Homfray

    I think the New Statesman’s constant negativity is ‘bottom of the barrel’ – Hodges writes for them, and the Seldon article from a public school head who we shouldn’t allow within a million miles of the party was another anti-Labour hatchet job. I’m planning to cancel my subscription if it continues

    • John Ruddy

      Have you already cancelled your subscription? Hodges resigned – as an occiasional blogger, not a regular columnist – in October 2011 when they didnt run a piece that was critical of Ed Miliband.
      I think the Seldon article was helpful, in that it showed out out-of-touch that side of the party is.

    • Matthew Blott

      I know they have terrible circulation problems and wondered who actually paid for it. Now I know.

  • Kayleigh Anne

    It was pretty bottom of the barrel for Cameron to reference yet another tired “Blairite attacks key Brown aide” piece (it’d be like quoting Dan Hodges – pointless, predictable and not particularly effective given that Ed’s polling higher than Cameron), but seeing so many people say Ed should apologise to New Statesman was just sad.

    • David B

      Why should Cameron not comment on a newspaper piece regardless of the newspaper. After all it is in the public domain. Should Ed Miliband be stop from quoting, say, The Mail because it does not support Labour. More importantly Ed tried to be cleaver and completely messed up and Cameron slapped him down, just as Ed would have done if the roles were reversed. That is what PMQ is all about, and has been for some time.

  • Hamish Dewar

    Why does Labour go along with this charade?

    “Question number 1, Mr Speaker.”

    “I have had meetngs with colleages and others this morning and apart from my duties in this House, I will have further such meetings this afternoon.”
    Followed by rhetorical questions and non-answers.
    PMQs contribute nothing to the governance of this country.

  • Daniel Speight

    Funny how nobody quotes Luke Bozier anymore. What happened to all his mates? Fear of guilt by association I guess. Oh well, we will just have to wait until Hodges get caught up to something naughty.


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