Peter Hoskin

PMQs live blog | 8 December 2010

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VERDICT: Tuition fees, tuition fees, tuition fees. Ed Miliband used only one weapon from his armoury today – but it served him unexpectedly well. The Labour leader scraped a contest that, as usual, offered far more heat than light. His attacks were slightly more cutting, his one-liners that little bit more memorable, and it was all the more remarkable given his dreadful performance seven days ago. It wasn't that Cameron performed badly. The PM rightly – and, at times, effectively – pointed out Labour's hypocrisy on this issue. But it all seemed a little flat, as though he was reading from a script that had only just been handed to him. In the end, this was one to cheer the Labour benches, and clear some of the fallout from last week.  

1233: And that's it for this week. My quick verdict shortly.

1231: Cameron empahsises that the coalition's tuition fees policy is "fair and progressive". It's unfair, he says, to get all taxpayers to pay for others' university educations.

1229: Well-pitched response from Cameron, pointing out that Dromey was selected on an "all-women shortlist". He adds: "Perhaps he should dress properly next time."

1228: Jack Dromey asks whether the PM knows that "Parliament has been infiltrated by an imposter." His limp punchline is about Nick Clegg and tuition fees, etc.

1225: An amusing question equating the Lib Dems with FIFA. Cameron responds by digging up the Browne Review again. Labour are now an "organised hyposcrisy," he says.

1223: There we go again. In response to a Labour question about "broken promises" over tuition fees, Cameron points out that Labour commissioned the Browne Review - and had pencilled in cuts for the business department.

1221: Cameron on policing in Northern Ireland: "I think decisions are made better locally."

1220: Anne Main, a Tory MP, has a hostile question about the coalition's climbdown on knife crime. This is going to remain a divisive issue for the Tories.

1219: Cameron enjoys mentioning that Labour introduced tuition fees and commissioned the Browne Review. His aim is to portray Miliband as opportunistic.

1217: A strange but lively question from Labour's former "Twitter tsar" Kerry McCarthy: given that the PM is a fan of the Smiths, what Smiths songs will students be listening to tomorrow? Self-deprecatingly, Cameron mentions that This Charming Man might not be among them.

1215: Questions on overseas volutary groups, the snow, etc.

Backbench questions now, and the volume has gone right down. The Tory Chris Kelly asks about keeping serial, dangerous reoffenders in custody while the risk persists. Cameron says that the courts already have this power and will retain it.

This has settled into verbal ping-pong. Just like last week, Miliband's approach is to paint Cameron as uncaring, "what does he have against kids, anyway?" Cameron's approach is to paint Miliband as clueless. Both are landing light blows.

Ed Milband bites back: "I was a student, but I wasn't hanging round with people who were throwing bread rolls and trashing restaurants."

Cameron on Ed Miliband: "He is acting like a student politician, and, frankly, that's all he'll ever be." Roars, from all sides.

1208: Cameron's got some barbs of his own. He swipes that Ed Miliband "saw a crowd on the Mall, and decided to follow them - that's his idea of leadership."

Ooh, Ed Miliband is trying to carictaure this exchange. He fires Cameron's jibe from last week back at the PM: "A week really is a long time in politics. Not so much waving as drowning." This is feisty stuff.

More "What Would Labour Do?" rhetoric from Cameron, but it's effective. Just like last week, he reels off a list of Labour's actions: introducing tuition fees, backing away from the Browne review that they commissioned, etc.

This is a confident start from Ed Miliband. He points out that the Lib Dems are "split four ways". And then a gag: "If the Kremlin is spying on the LIb Dems, I'm not surprised. They want a bit of light relief."

The second question is similar, and so is Cameron's response. He says that only the coaliition has the "conviction" to act on fees.

1202: An agreesive first question from Ed Miliband: will this country have the highest fees for going to a public university "in the industrialised world." Cameron says that the numbers are "well known," and the coalition is acting in response to the deficit.

1200: And here we go, right on time. Cameron starts with condolences for injured and fallen troops in Afghanistan. The first question is about "unmanned aircraft vehicles". Cameron replies that this is exactly the sort of defence spending that we should engage in.

Stay tuned for live coverage from 1200.