James Forsyth

Afghanistan tragedy overshadows PMQs

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I have rarely heard the House of Commons as quiet as it was at the start of PMQs today. The sad news from Afghanistan was, rightly, weighing on MPs’ minds.

The initial Cameron Miliband exchanges were on the conflict there with the two leaders agreeing with each other. In some ways, though, I wonder whether the country would not benefit more from some forensic debate about the strategic aims of the mission.

However the volume level in the House increased when Joan Ruddock asked the PM if he was ‘truly proud’ of taking benefits away from disabled children. Cameron, with a real flash of anger, shot back that ‘as someone who has actually filled out the form’ for Disability Living Allowance he believed that a personal independence payment would be better.

When Miliband returned, he tried to hit Cameron on both changes to tax credits and taxing away child benefit from higher rate taxpayers, who Miliband called ‘middle income families’. Neither leader landed a knockout blow in these exchanges. But it was noticeable how Miliband clearly views the child benefit policy as a vulnerability for Cameron.