This being employed malarkey has its benefits, I’ll give you that. Wages, security, sense of self-worth, a reason to get out of bed before 9am. All good stuff.
On the other hand, it really interferes with my ability to watch Prime Minister’s Questions. I have to plan to make sure I have my lunch break at the right time. I also have to go down to the break room at 8am to put BBC news on and then hide the remote to be certain I’m not forced to sit through a repeat of Top Gear or something I’ve found out is called Loose Women.
Sometimes I can pull it off, other times I’m not so lucky. Today was a successful one. I got to watch the whole of PMQs without being disturbed. And, as an Ed Miliband supporter, I’m glad I did.
This was his first PMQs after his 2 weeks of paternity leave. A 2 week absence that allowed Tory press to create stories of splits, rumours of rebellion, and cock-and-bull about coups. The late, great Harold Wilson knew exactly what he was talking about when he said “a week is a long time in politics”. It’s as true today as it was in 1964.
Miliband had obviously not been resting completely from the day job during his leave. He came back today with a strong opener on the cuts to school sports funding, using a letter from a teacher in Cameron’s own constituency to make the point that the school sports volunteers being cut “sounds a lot like Big Society”. The Prime Minister didn’t have a lot to say in response with some questionable statistic about the number of students taking part in competitive sport, failing to realise that the other students would still be taking part in sport despite not being on teams.
Next Cameron attacked Ed over his record in his time at Treasury under Gordon Brown, making comment about the knighting of Fred Goodwin and boom and bust. That might have been a good line of attack if it wasn’t for the fact that Cameron worked at the Treasury when Norman Lamont devalued the pound on Black Wednesday, which Miliband was nice enough to point out to the Prime Minister.
David Cameron relied too heavily on his stock reply that he was just dealing with a “mess left behind” along with giving voice to a pre-prepared line on Miliband being the “nothing man of British politics” in trying to make something of Labour’s lack of policy while the policy review is underway. This line about having no alternative to cuts because of Labour’s mess is getting old six months in and failing to carry much weight, especially when Osborne can offer Ireland £7 billion but Sheffield Forgemasters nothing at all…
By using his two sets of questions to raise both the school sports funding cuts and then the transparency of banking, Miliband targeted two subjects where the Lib Dems and Conservatives are split. Like breaking rocks, this working at the small chinks week-by-week will, slowly but surely, make them bigger until the chinks become chasms. It also forces Cameron to give replies which attempt to cover over those divides, putting the PM on the defensive from the outset. When he is on the defensive, he makes silly personal attacks on Ed which go down well on the Eton playground and the Tory backbenches, but not so well with the viewing public.