David Blackburn

PMQs Live blog | 24 November 2010

Text settings

VERDICT: Ed Miliband did well. He exploited the Cabinet divide on school sport and also illustrated how teachers are wary of Gove's plans. If anything, this reveals the complexity of the opposition facing Gove, and the extent to which it is ingrained, even within Conservative circles. There was also a withering and effective personal attack on Gove. Cameron laid out his government's stall: Gove (and arguably Cameron) will stand or fall by it. For once, Labour's opposition was very clearly delineated. So it should have been: courtesy of the long established system, state education is Labour's natural territory and many of its MPs and councillors cut their teeth running it in local government.

Miliband was less assured with his second set of questions, on banking. The problem is that Cameron can simply point to Labour's record on regulation and its inability to reform city practice; it also enables him to segue into wider economic questions, where Labour fares no better. He referred to the absence of policy on public spending cuts and highlighted the differences of opinion Miliband and Alan Johnson have on taxation. On these most important issues, Labour's sails are a mess.

On balance, a score draw. But this was the first time Miliband has been able to live with Cameron as a performer. That said, Cameron was no near his best.  

12:25: Nothing much from the backbenches this week. Plants galore and specious nonsense from Dennis Skinner about immigration. Cameron uses the question to encapsulate the government's policy. Net migration within the EU, he alleges, is balanced. The net migration surplus comes from outside the EU, which is why the number of unskilled workers and non-degree students must be capped.

12:16: More heat than light here to be honest, as the two leaders exchange blows over their records whilst at the Treasury. Cameron points out that Miliband was the minister who refused to regulate the banks and awarded Fred the Shred a knighthood for breaking RBS. Miliband retorts that Cameron was at the Treasury on Black Wednesday. Essentially, Cameron argues that his government has decided to adopt the Walker report, commissioned by Labour in the first place, and will wait for pan-European agreement on banking reform before shafting the City (and therefore, presumably, the recovery). Miliband wants him to lead and get on with it; however, the government in which he served chose not to take his advice. Better from Cameron this round. 

12:14: After some backbench questions, including a goodie from Bill Cash on Europe, Miliband returns on the question of transparency in banking - trying to exploit the division between Osborne and Cable. Miliband says that the Business Secretary's words on transparency breeding confidence both politically and economically, should have been heeded. 

12:08: Two more inconclusive rounds on schools conclude with Cameron saying that it is time to trust head teachers with how to spend money on their schools. Miliband finesses his trump: a headmistress in Chipping Norton, deep in DC's consituency, who is exercised by the 'brutal strokes of Mr Gove's pen'. Miliband uses this to use Gove as the ball in this scrum: 'This just sums up the current education secretary, a tight-handed, incompetent and unfair secretary.' It's a powerful finish from Miliband, and a decent three card trick to put more pressure on Gove immediately before his revolutionary announcement. Cameron's answer is repetitious, but quite adept: Labour's way was an expensive failure. His way is to give a funding increase through the pupil premium and leave teachers to it - only time will tell if the government can break the mighty educational establishment and deliver the radical reforms.

12:06: Cameron responds in kind to Miliband's joshing and then attacks Labour's record on school sport: only 1 in 5 children play inter-school competitive sport. Labour's way was the wrong way.

12:05: Here's Miliband, hitting the ground running with some good nature joshing about the gifts Cameron and Clegg gave his second son Samuel. Then, ahead of the Education White Paper, he attacks the school sports cut, which is dividing the government and exciting Labour

12:03: Cameron gives assurances that tips will not be used to supplant the minimum wage. In a response to second question, Cameron promises to end the occupation of Parliament Square.

12:01: And we're off. First, Cameron commends our war dead and then the victims of the New Zealand mine disaster.. Labour MP Michael Connarty opens on fair tips for waiting staff.

11:40: Stay tuned for live coverage from 12:00