After a respectful exchange between party leaders regarding the troubles in Egypt and the safety of British nationals, the main focus of Ed Miliband’s questions were on education. Not that this bothered David Cameron much as it became clear throughout the session that his main focus was going to be the amount of times he could bring the words ‘Len McCluskey’ and ‘Unite’ into his responses. He did well.
First, Ed Miliband raised the need for 240,000 extra primary school places and hoped for assurance that this would not lead to increased class sizes. This was expectedly dodged by Cameron as the amount of class sizes over 30 has doubled under the coalition government. Then Cameron was asked why new schools were being built in areas where there was a surplus of places and where existing schools needed refurbishment. This was also dodged and prompted the first Len McCluskey/Unite response of PMQs although the link was so tenuous it was not apparent how it had been achieved.
When Ed Miliband expressed concern that this could lead to a rise in portakabins in school playgrounds the topic was dodged yet again and, yet again, the perils of trade union funding was Cameron’s stock response. It was disappointing that serious issues around capacity in our education system were avoided in such a blatant attempt to highlight issues that will be resolved outside of the parliamentary process. But Cameron did not stop there.
Stephen Timms asked how the government felt about an increase in the use of food banks by families from 30,000 – 350,000 in the past three years. But with no interest in the topic Cameron once again sited Timms’ links to Unite.
As an employee of Mencap’s campaigns and policy team I was pleased to hear Paul Burstow ask if more could be done to stop the appalling abuses that took places at Winterbourne View from ever happening again which received the support of the PM.
Shockingly, Pat Glass’ important question regarding the failure of the bedroom tax for individuals, families and the tax payer was dismissed by Cameron as good value for the tax payer.
After almost 30 minutes of answers steered as often as possible toward Len McCluskey and Unite, a question by Richard Drax was raised regarding the Falkirk selection process where these words may legitimately have formed part of the answer. Unfortunately for Mr Cameron, who was by now on union lock and load with ‘one up the spout’, this question was ruled out of order by the speaker having nothing to do with parliamentary process or the prime minister.
Who won? Miliband: 3, Cameron: 0, Len McCluskey? Lost count!
Mike Le-Surf is Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for South Basildon and East Thurrock. He tweets @MikeLeSurf
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