It is strictly against the rules to cheer in the public gallery, but we can all privately admit that the temptation can prove too strong for some to resist. This was certainly the position David Cameron’s two children found themselves in today as they watched their dad eviscerate Ed Miliband at PMQs.
The kids had clearly been whisked straight from school to join the world and their wives to watch the only real debate of the 2015 General Election.
Miliband’s strategy was to knock the Prime Minister out of kilter by asking for him to rule out a rise in VAT, but to everyone’s shock Cameron did. This set the stage, Cameron was in it to win it and the gloves were off.
Afterwards journalists deluged the Number 10 Press Team with questions about how the VAT pledge might work in a coalition. Labour even claimed that the George Osborne “had pulled on odd face” when the announcement was made, leading them to suggest policy was being “made up on the hoof”.
The kids were not the only Cameron’s to breach parliamentary protocol. Their dad was pretty shameless in ignoring the rules when he started asking Miliband questions of his own. Well actually Cameron asked Miliband the same question over and over again, “would he rule out a rise in National Insurance”.
The calculated dumping of protocol and the ruling out of VAT may have been cynical but they worked. Miliband did not rule out the rise in National Insurance, which gave Cameron opportunity to run the ‘jobs tax bombshell’ line he’s been in love with of late.
Miliband attempted to run through various areas of policy that he sees Cameron as weak on. In truth, the excitement of the Cameron children said it all. Daddy was beating the living daylights out of Miliband. And if the children were a little excited, then Tory MPs were in virtual meltdown. Had one of them died of heart failure, or developed a hernia it would have come as little surprise.
But despite the sterling efforts of both leaders, the comment of the day had to be DUP leader Nigel Dodds. He asked which Irish Republicans had knelt before the Queen and begged for pardons as part of the comfort letter deal. Dodds claimed Republican voters “would want to know”, I doubt they would want to know but it was still a good line.
After a stormy 33 minutes the final question came from Tory backbencher Chris Skidmore. His previous occupation as an historian was probably too much of an opportunity for Cameron. The PM reminded the house that Thursday is the final burial of King Richard III, “this is the last time someone did in one of their relatives to get the top job and the country ended in chaos.”
Conservative MPs cried “more” and waved Miliband goodbye. Oh what a difference this might have made if had been on prime time TV…
Cameron – 3
Miliband – 0