Whooo that was nasty. Today’s was the most vicious PMQs of the last twelve months. Easily. Ed Miliband started by quoting the case of a Londoner called ‘John’ who was concerned about living standards. ‘John’, however, wasn’t a disabled pensioner but a City fat cat concerned that next year’s bonus might be capped at two million pounds.
‘What’s the prime minister going to do to help him?’
Nifty tactics from Miliband’s team. Cameron might have floundered here but his reply matched the full force of Miliband’s attack. His government, he declared, had cut bonuses to a quarter of what they’d been under Labour.
‘And we aren’t going to listen to the croupiers who were in the casino when it all went bust.’
Toxic language. And contagious as well. The PM’s blistering insult sent wild roars ringing around the chamber. When Miliband stood up he seemed to rock back for a moment, like a wobbly skittle. The speaker called for silence. The roars went on. They were Tory roars. Miliband’s ambush had been neutered by Cameron’s snooker-hall language.
Miliband then accused Cameron of dispatching George Osborne to Brussels to sabotage the new EU limits on bankers’ pay. ‘They’re fighting,’ shouted Miliband, ‘for bigger bonuses for bankers’.
This was a second trap. But Cameron didn’t spot it. He blundered unknowingly towards Miliband’s baited snare. Ever keen to disprove the idea that he’s a banker-stroking capitalist buccaneer, Cameron said his government had imposed ‘the toughest rules on bonuses and transparency anywhere in the world.’
Miliband scuttled out and pounced. He quoted a Cameron speech from March 2008 where the Tory leader called himself ‘a free marketeer by conviction’. The City’s real problem, Cameron had said, was ‘too much regulation’. Miliband then linked ‘John the banker’ with the thousands of poor claimants hit by ‘the bedroom tax’.
Cameron met Miliband’s cunning with brute force.