The House was loud today. The place felt charged. Perhaps it was the hot weather. The Speaker had to tell off MPs for being too boisterous during Northern Ireland questions.
When the PM stood, the House erupted. The first question thrown at him concerned borrowing—does the government’s failure to deliver economic growth mean that it will have to borrow more? Cameron replied to this saying that the government had succeeded in cutting the deficit, which is true enough, even though the overall debt burden is still rising. The PM then threw in a line about the Leader of the Opposition’s vacillation over universal child benefits. First Miliband thought it ought to be scrapped for high earning families, but now he wants it kept, claimed the PM. “Total and utter confusion,” attends Ed’s every pronouncement, Cameron claimed.
Douglas Carswell, (Cons, Clacton) then stood to ask about the mechanism for getting rid of dodgy MPs. Will the Commons be able to vote out the bad ones, in what is known as the “right of recall”? Yes, said the PM, but not only a vote. There must be a mechanism for official censure first. Cameron then rather clunkily wondered out loud whether Ed Miliband “recalled” his former position on child benefit. His own benches collapsed at this piece of coruscating wit.
Miliband then stood to put his first question, which was on the NHS, a subject that is a favourite of his at PMQs and from which in the past he has not extracted quite the return he might have hoped. It was no different today. Ed told the House that an A&E emergency was under way in the country and wondered what the PM was going to do about it. Cameron replied that Miliband was showing signs of “confusion and weakness,” over child benefit and as for the NHS, his government was hitting its targets on A&E waiting times—not bad considering that 1.5m more people are using A&E now that under Labour.
This answer Miliband found “complacent,” claiming that the PM was “out of touch.” Why are waiting times going up, he asked? Cameron pointed out that the NHS was meeting its waiting time targets, unlike in Wales, where the NHS is run by…