Verdict: another one for Cameron, but like the last time they met, mostly given away by Miliband
This was a semi-repeat of the last proper PMQS (see March 5th), with one important wrinkle: Ed Miliband took my advice and decided not to use every single one of his six questions making David Cameron look statesmanlike. He expended the first three on the Ukraine crisis and then sat down. To summarise this part of the debate, here goes:
- Was the Crimean referendum illegitimate? Cameron’s answer: yes it was, I’ve never said any different.
- Economic trade sanctions should get ever tougher on the Russians. Cameron’s answer: yes, I am one of the loudest voices at the international table calling for this. Although, there was a glimpse at just how weakly the west is dealing with the whole thing in one revealing remark from the Prime Minister. He said that should Russia invade eastern Ukraine, we should think about tough trade sanctions! Jesus, Vlad must be quaking in his boots now…
- Should the G8 be permanently disbanded? Cameron’s answer: I was one of the first, if not the first world leader to insist the G8 summit in Russia be cancelled and obviously chucking Russia out of the G8 would be a last resort but one to be seriously considered.
So thus far, Cameron looking great, world leader speaking up for Britain’s interests on the world stage, etc, etc. Miliband sat down so that Dave could face Julian Huppert trying to emphasise the fact that the tax cut on low earners is a Lib Dem policy and then a question on the Middle East peace process. Thinking about it, this was the toughest part of the whole half hour for the Prime Minister.
When Ed got up to ask his second round of questions, they were all on the mental health budget falling. Which Cameron handled reasonably deftly: the NHS budget has risen £12.7 billion over the parliament while everything else has been chopped. What more do the opposition want? It came across as nit-picking by Miliband. A shame because mental health is actually an important issue and deserves more than a lame battle across the ballot box between two men looking at their notes while trying not to look like they are looking at their notes.
So another week of “consensus” politics. It’s a bit dull, isn’t it?