Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Harriet’s last PMQs

Luke Akehurst and Kezia Dugdale pore over today’s sessions, picking out best backbench questions and jokes. Harriet’s hoodie quip rounded off a good run for her, while Tories raised questions about AV and…. Fidel Castro

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Who won?

Luke Akehurst: It was a muted PMQs as everyone is waiting to see who the new participant will be from the Labour side. Cameron paid generous tribute to Harriet Harman’s role as acting leader. We in the Labour party also owe her a debt of thanks for leading the party in a united way through the aftermath of the election defeat and the leadership contest. Cameron noted that Harriet has used her role to raise effectively at PMQs matters she has had a long-term interest in. She did this today by pointedly asking why the coalition has not signed the EU directive on trafficking in human beings. Cameron didn’t seem to have a convincing answer and on that basis I’d say Harriet won today’s encounter.

Kezia Dugdale: Undoubtedly Harriet. Points awarded not for debating style or ease of rebuttal, but for simply raising an issue as serious and taboo as sex trafficking. You could sense the Tory grandees’ grumbles at the sheer of mention of sex in the chamber whilst their apprentices giggled and shuffled in their seats. It was unfortunate that the speaker didn’t give Michael Connarty quite enough point to expose what was wrong with the detail of the government’s decision. Perhaps tomorrow’s papers will have the good grace to call him instead.

Best backbencher?

LA: The most interesting question was from rightwing Tory backbencher Peter Bone MP who asked for a free vote on the committee stage of the bill to introduce an AV voting system, and was politely slapped down by the PM. This publicly exposed the disquiet on the Tory backbenches about this aspect of the coalition agreement. It will be interesting to see how many rebels there are.

KD: Wasn’t bowled over by many questions this week but Rosie Cooper’s question over cuts to the capital funding of a college which was half built was perhaps the best. Short and simple, highlighting the nonsensical position the college was in, Ms Cooper actually succeeded in getting a substantive response over a quip. He’s investigating, a minister will meet with her and hopefully the situation will be resolved. A good day’s work.

Best question, answer comment or joke?

LA: Other good questions were Valerie Vaz MP, who raised human rights abuses in Burma and Iran, and Vernon Coaker MP highlighting the sneaking out of the equalities impact assessment of the BSF cuts – which have hit the poorest pupils hardest.

Best joke was Cameron saying that even Communist Cuba is tackling its deficit and that Comrade Castro is nearer the same planet as the coalition than Labour is. Cheap but it got a good laugh

KD: Harriet’s relief that she wasn’t wearing a hoodie was just pipped to the post by Priti Patel’s joke about Comrade Castro accepting the need for cuts. Perhaps the joke will be on her though when her constituents realise she wasted a prime time opportunity to raise something of greater concern to them.

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