Home > Great Britain > PMQs Weds. 6th May 2009

PMQs Weds. 6th May 2009


Another PMQs: Tory, Punch & Judy man,  cliche speaking David Cameron launched his attack based on Hazel Blear’s recent article in The Observer; then hammered Gordon Brown on policy u- turns;  the usual drivel, attacks on Gordon Brown’s leadership , division in the cabinet and about “busted government’ and calling for an election.

In truth the Tories probably don’t want an election now,  in any case the public hasn’t had a chance to deeply examine their policies.

Lib. Dem. leader Nick Clegg: featured education and literacy of young people in prison and care system in crisis.  Gordon Brown’s reply was to outline what the government has done for young people.  Nick Clegg followed and accused the government of “criminalizing young people” .  Gordon Brown responded by outlining what this government has done.

An excerpt from Hansard, of the exchange between first Brown and Cameron and later Brown and Clegg:

“Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): There have been a series of U-turns, defeats in Parliament—even when the Government have a majority—and Ministers, including Cabinet Ministers, openly questioning the authority of the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister agree that those are signs of a Government in terminal decline?

The Prime Minister: Once again, the right hon. Gentleman cannot ask questions about the economy, swine flu or the difficult decisions that we have got to take in the world. Once again, he reduces everything to personality. We are getting on with the business of governing.

Mr. Cameron: If the Prime Minister got out and knocked on a few more doors, he would realise that his leadership is the issue. He likes to talk about these issues of substance, but his failure to reform welfare, his failure to deal with the deficit, and his failure to run a united Cabinet all have two things in common: they are failures, and they are his failures. So let us take the state of his Cabinet. This weekend, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government wrote an article calling the Government’s performance “lamentable”. Given that she is openly mocking the Prime Minister and his authority, what is she still doing in the Cabinet?

The Prime Minister: What would be unacceptable is if we were to follow the policies of the Conservative party. What would be lamentable is if we were to adopt the Conservatives’ policy of doing absolutely nothing. Once again, the right hon. Gentleman has nothing to say about the big issues of the day; once again, he has nothing to say about unemployment; once again, he has nothing to say about the help that we are giving people for housing; and once again, he has nothing to say about help with businesses. Talking about U-turns, this is the man who promised to support the Government through the economic crisis; within a few days, he had abandoned that promise with his U-turn.

Mr. Cameron: I am afraid this just won’t wash. The Communities Secretary—she has appeared; I am glad she is still here—did not write an article about the NHS. She did not write an article about unemployment. She did not write an article about the recession. She wrote an article about the Prime Minister’s leadership and his failure of authority. Let me read out what she said:

“YouTube if you want to.”

How much more mocking can one get than that? She also wrote:

“All too often we announce . . . five-year plans, or launch new documents—often with colossal price tags attached—that are received by the public with incredulity at best and, at worst, with hostility. Whatever the problems of the recession, the answer is not more government documents or big speeches.”

Having just made a big speech, who on earth does the Prime Minister think she is referring to? Does he not realise that his Government simply cannot go on like this? Let me ask him again: why is she still in the Cabinet?

The Prime Minister: What we are doing is taking action on the recession. We are helping the unemployed get back into work—opposed by the Conservatives. We are helping people with their mortgages—opposed by the Conservatives. We are helping people with cash flow for their businesses—opposed by the Conservatives. We are going to give a September schools guarantee to every school leaver that they will get work, training or educational support, which is also opposed by the Conservatives. Let us talk about the real issues in government. It is about making big decisions in difficult times. The right hon. Gentleman is not up to the task.

Mr. Cameron: The big issue in British politics today is the fact that the man who is meant to be leading our country shows such appalling judgment. That is the reason he is losing his authority. Let us look at the string of misjudgments that we have seen. The Prime Minister has made U-turns on Titan prisons, the internet database, MPs’ expenses and that humiliating defeat on the Gurkhas. Why does he think he got so many judgments so badly wrong?

The Prime Minister: If the right hon. Gentleman wants to talk about U-turns, the biggest U-turn is his supporting public spending, and now saying that he will not match our public spending. The biggest U-turn on education is to support money for education, and then to say that he will cut it. The biggest U-turn is to say that he was supporting us on the police and is now planning to cut police expenditure. Let us remember that he was the “hug a hoodie”, which was another of his big U-turns. Compassionate Conservatism—it has gone, gone and gone.

Mr. Cameron: I am sure that sounded just great in the bunker, while the mobile phones and printers were flying round the room. The biggest U-turn of all is that of the Prime Minister, who fought the last election accusing us of £35 billion in spending cuts. On his own arithmetic, he has cut £85 billion from his own spending. If he is so confident of his arguments and his judgments, and if he thinks he is on the right side of these arguments, why does he not do what Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair did after four years of a Parliament and call a general election?

The Prime Minister: The reason I am confident about what we are doing is that there is nobody in the world supporting the policies of the right hon. Gentleman’s party. Go to America, Germany, France or Italy—he has no supporters in Europe. He is completely isolated because he wants to cut spending during a recession, and everybody else recognises that we cannot cut our way out of recession. We have to invest our way out of recession. The Conservatives are in the dark ages on policy. They have to think again.

Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister talks about isolated. He is isolated in his own Cabinet—he is the only one who thinks he is any good. What is it about this Prime Minister and elections? He would not fight an election to win the leadership of the Labour party; he did not fight an election to become Prime Minister; and he does not have the courage to go to the country now. Is not the truth that Britain needs a strong Prime Minister with a united party capable of taking long-term decisions? Instead, we have a wasted year with an utterly busted Government. No one doubts that he might have come into politics for the right reasons, but is it not clear that he is just not up to the job? The public know it, his party knows it, and now the Cabinet knows it, so why not do the last bold thing left and call an election?

The Prime Minister: I have listened to the right hon. Gentleman’s six questions, and not one of them has been about policy. He has not raised the cause of the unemployed in Britain once; he has not mentioned mortgage holders or home owners once; he has not mentioned small businesses once; he has not mentioned the state of the economy and what we can do to improve it once; he has not mentioned the public services once; and he has not mentioned health and education once. He is completely out of his depth when it comes to the big issues in this country…

…Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): Yesterday, the Prime Minister gave a speech on education and young people. It was his big chance to show that he still has some big ideas for the country: to explain why one in three 11-year-olds still cannot read or write properly; to explain why we have more young people than ever before in prison, in debt or on anti-depressants; and to explain why under his Government we have the unhappiest children in the developed world and a care system in crisis. So, how is a bit of tinkering with the schools complaints procedure going to fix any of that?

The Prime Minister: Let us deal with the right hon. Gentleman’s first point, about children and reading. Far more, and a far higher percentage of, children are able to read and write at 11 as a result of the decisions that we have taken as a Government. There are 30,000 children who now get personal tuition to be able to read, and another 30,000 who get personal tuition to be able to write. No Government have invested more in reading, literacy and counting for children, and we have doubled our expenditure on the education of every child over the past 10 years. Of course, there is a great deal more to do and, of course, we are worried about instances of children in care, where there has to be reform. But, we have doubled investment in education over 10 years. It could not have happened under a Liberal or Conservative Government.

Mr. Clegg: There comes a point when stubbornness is not leadership; it is stupidity. [Interruption.] At least I say it to the Prime Minister’s face; Labour Members say it behind his back. For the past 12 years, this Government have vilified and criminalised young people and abandoned a whole generation, and all the Prime Minister can do is spin a vacuous speech to keep his own party off his back. Is it not now obvious that he does not really care about what is right for the country? All he really cares about is saving his own skin.

The Prime Minister: I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman prepared his answer to the second question before he got the answer from me. The truth is that we are doing more than ever before to help children realise their potential. Sure Start did not exist until there was a Labour Government; nursery education until age three did not exist until there was a Labour Government; and all the programmes that have doubled expenditure and raised standards in primary schools did not exist until there was a Labour Government. Of course, we have more to do, but it would be better if he supported us in doing the right things, rather than attacking us when we are doing the right things…”

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