For today’s PMQs, we returned to the issue of our extended family in Europe dominating the benches. Like Aunt Ethel, we just cannot seem to shake those darn Europeans off. David Cameron’s speech this morning on Europe did promise his British ‘relatives’ the chance of a yes or no referendum on Europe. We just all have to wait up until 2017 – and of course it depends on the Conservatives winning the 2015 general election. With the Ipsos MORI poll this morning showing that only six per cent of people list the EU as a major issue, it seems Cameron and his comrades are out of touch yet again.
All this European chest-beating could be seen as a distraction some might say, from the failing economy, massive cuts and rising in-work poverty. Luckily Labour were there to remind Cameron about these challenges and questions raised with the prime minister included pertinent issues closer to home, welfare cuts, creating growth in the economy and protecting the most vulnerable in our society.
Well, though it may surprise some, I would say Ed Miliband won. Cameron failed to answer Ed’s repeated question on whether Cameron would campaign for a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum should he fail to get the changes he desires; that’s not dodging the questions, it’s a clear cop-out, especially as this PMQs swiftly followed Cameron’s most important speech to date on Europe. Menzies Campbell waded in asking an important question in regards to the consequences of leaving Europe – always an option will a straight yes-no referendum, while Bill Cash, chair of the European select committee, poked Cameron on what he would do if our European relatives ignore the prime minister again and went ahead regardless of Britain’s veto. Of course, Cameron was flustered and flapped but could not seem to answer the questions at hand.
Question after question was dodged by Cameron on Europe, on welfare reform and on the government’s failing economic growth strategy. When Cameron imitated Ed not only in his the ‘figures speak for themselves’ line, but also by trying to state that Ed didn’t know what he or Labour wanted, you knew he had lost the argument. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery after all.
Credit where credit is due, and this goes to Mark Pawsey for his questions to Cameron and his sidekick Eric Pickles from learning lessons from those up north. Heaven forbid. Pawsey asked Cameron what he was going to do to make sure the lessons from Greater Manchester local authorities on their troubled families’ strategy, which includes £224m saving, were learned and shared. Cameron tried to wiggle out of praising the political leadership of said local authorities and referred back to the Dept of Local Communities and Government doing well – but we all know what he meant to say.
Best question, answer, comment or joke?
This has to go to the beast of Bolsover, Dennis Skinner, who brought it right back to the heart of Cameron’s ideologically led government and challenged Cameron on his ‘wining and dining at Demos and the company he keeps’ while the rest of the us struggle to cope with Cameron’s austerity Britain and keeping a roof over our heads.
Amina Lone is a councillor on Manchester council. She tweets @Lone5
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