by Dan Hodges
Strikes. Splits in the shadow cabinet over the response to strikes. Anger from the unions at Ed Miliband’s response to the strikes.
Welcome to leader of the opposition’s question time.
David Cameron, helpfully, offered to field some of the questions on Ed Miliband’s behalf. What message, Karen Lumley from Redditch asked, should be sent to the teachers in her constituency who weren’t going on strike. ‘Scabs!’ screamed the prime minister. Actually, he didn’t. ‘I would congratulate them on doing the right thing and keeping their school open’, he said.
Ed Miliband stood up confidently. He knew how to play this game. Week after week he fired questions pointlessly across the dispatch box. Week after week David Cameron refused to answer them.
He wasn’t going to be talking about strikes. He was going to be talking about the issues that really mattered to people. Like how many people under the height of 5 ft 6 were employed in the NHS. Or something like that.
David Cameron looked weary. Of course he didn’t know the answer to that. That was a question on detail. He didn’t do detail. Anyway it wasn’t his job to answer the questions today.
No problem said Ed Miliband. ‘Let me give him the answer to the question’. This was fun. Ed Miliband question time. He asked the questions. He answered the questions. Perhaps if he could catch John Bercow’s eye he’d let him have a go at being Speaker as well; ‘Order! Will the leader of the opposition stop interrupting the leader of the opposition. Let the leader of the opposition speak’.
By now David Cameron was becoming frustrated at Ed Miliband’s evasiveness. Mainly because he was actually proving quite good at it. ‘What the whole country will have noticed’, the prime minister taunted, ‘is that at a time when people are worried about strikes he can’t ask about strikes because he’s in the pockets of the unions’.
Ed Miliband rolled his eyes. Dear oh dear. Was this the best the prime minister could do?
Apparently it was. ‘He can’t talk about the economy, because of his ludicrous plan for tax cuts’, shouted Cameron. There was another first, a Tory prime minister attacking a Labour leader for cutting taxes because he was in hock to militant trade unionists.
Just when it looked as if things couldn’t possibly get any more surreal, up popped someone called Guto Beeb. ‘Would the prime minister agree’, asked the Conservative member for Aberconwy, ‘that Aneurin Bevan would be turning in his grave as he sees a Conservative secretary of state increasing spending on health in England whilst a Labour government in Cardiff cuts spending on NHS’.
He’d love to. But first he had to check with the chair. Was it in order, he asked, ‘to talk about Labour’s record in Wales?’.
On the other side Ed Miliband sat serenely. If the prime minister fancied answering questions about Labour policy he was welcome to.
Leader of the opposition’s question time was proving quite fun. A chap could get quite used to this.
Dan Hodges is contributing editor of Labour Uncut.