Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

PMQs sketch: Buck passing and wasted billions

The hypocrisy was breath-taking. The opportunism was scandalous. The lack of principle was extraordinary. All the same, it wasn’t a bad move. Ed Miliband used PMQs to attack the Tories for turning Britain’s borders into a gleaming string of electro-magnetic funfairs that attract hopefuls from across the globe.

Cameron planned to pass the buck straight back to Labour but Miliband pre-empted him with a list of specific Tory failings. A billion wasted on computers. Fifty thousand migrants vanishing into thin air. And the vow to cut incoming numbers to ‘tens of thousands’ broken spectacularly with 243,000 showing up since last autumn. That’s a new Glasgow every two years. Quite a party to pay for.

All Cameron could do was claim to have reduced numbers from their peak under Gordon Brown. In other words, ‘Labour started it. And we’re fractionally less useless than them.’ The root cause, he said, was the decision in 2004 to ask eight EU accession countries to transfer their dole queues straight to our job centres. Which is like blaming your boss from a decade ago for your work-place heroin habit.

Miliband finished with a Cameron quote delivered during a moment of euphoria, or possibly Merlot-phoria, back in 2010.

‘If we don’t deliver on our side of the bargain, vote us out,’ Cameron had said.

This cheery invitation to bash the PM in the teeth be heard many more times before May.

Labour has a new ploy to zap the immigration bug. Backbenchers have been ordered to stage mass rallies on the topic in their constituencies. Which is easier than it sounds when you remember that nowadays a ‘mass rally’ means any event where the spectators, (dogs included), outnumber the speakers. Labour’s man in Dudley, Ian Austin, has evidently enjoyed just such an encounter with his voters.

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