PMQs 23 November 2011
PMQs was dominated by the economy this week, with Ed Miliband using all of his six questions to quiz the Prime Minister on youth unemployment, which as we know has topped 1 million in recent weeks.
There were also questions on the sale of Northern Rock and next week's co-ordinated strike action by the unions over public sector pensions.
The two big themes coming from David Cameron were to blame it all on Europe (he claimed that youth unemployment was high "across Europe") and to claim that Ed Miliband is just a union stooge. Cameron pointed out today's figures which show that 86% of Labour funding now comes from the unions. These are running themes from the Prime Minister, who has already made several attempts to shift the blame for lacklustre growth onto the crisis in the Eurozone.
The battle to win the argument over next week's strike is clearly on. Tories lined up to ask the PM to condemn the strike action on the 30th of November, and Cameron duly obliged. This is difficult territory for Labour given we know they are still nearly £10 million in debt and getting almost all their money from the unions. Unite alone gave Labour £1.4 million in the past three months.
Cameron also told businesses they should let their workers bring their kids to work, if it's safe to do so. So it's going to be "Bring Your Kids To Work" day next week, which should prove interesting or embarrasing for parents across the country.
PMQs is starting to become quite a problem for Ed Miliband. He should be winning them, given NHS figures are deteriorating, jobless totals are rising and there's no sign that the economy is making any meaningful recovery. And yet the Labour leader isn't performing; he's simply not doing his job properly. Part of the job of opposition is to scrutinise and challenge what the government's doing, and he's getting that bit.
The trouble is the more important part of being opposition leader is to spell out how you'd do things differently, and a year into his tenure as Labour leader, there isn't enough detail of how he'd govern better. The "five point plan" the party has adopted wasn't even mentioned by Ed Miliband at PMQs - why invent a policy if you can't be proud of it and offer the alternative?
Again it wasn't great for Ed Miliband. What the TV cameras never show is Miliband after he's asked his questions. This week he sits there, watching the PM answer the rest of his questions and you can't help but detect a wistful look on his face. Will he ever be standing on the other side of the Commons doing the same thing?
Not on current form. The problem is that Miliband is still defending Labour's record in office and the things they did, but they were rejected by the electorate.
Ed Miliband urges the PM to change course, but doesn't offer any ideas or alternatives. And because of that, he's sounding a bit like a broken record. It makes it too easy for Cameron to come back with his initiatives.
Up in the galleries Tory officials seem quietly pleased, whereas Miliband's people play with their phones and look morose. That happens most weeks, and this week is no exception.
Must try harder, Ed Miliband!
He's been accused of entering government to a healthy NHS, now being damaged.
PM says mixed sex wards are down 90% since they came to power. (thery've been rising recently though)
Should people keep booking their holidays with Thomas Cook?
PM: he has asked for a report on the company. He does not agree that people should Thomas Cook it.
The Tory MP asks if it's okay for parents to bring their kids to work on strike day.
PM : where its safe to help people by bringing children to work, employers should do so.
Asks the PM whether every young person out of work after 6 months should be "guaranteed" a job, because long term unemployment is mentally scarring.
PM agrees being jobless is bad for mental health, but repeats that they're doing everything they can through the Work Programme.
Says the Northern Rock saga is lamentable because over the years a mutual has become a bank, then a nationalised bank, and now sold off to Virgin Money, which apparently is "brash".
PM says people should be glad that the Rock will still be based in the North of England.
Given the government has frozen Council Tax again, why are the Green party in Brighton and Hove trying to put it up?
PM says government money can go to council tax freezes, but it's up to councils how they spend it.
Should there be a minimum threshold for strike action, given the big unions only had turnouts of about 30%' and only about 1 in 5 voted in favour?
PM says its not surprising that Labour won't condemn the strikes because figures out today show that 86% of Labour funding comes from unions.
It's the "out of touch" line to round off from Miliband. Unless the PM changes course, he will consign 1m young people to constant unemployment.
PM finishes by saying that the IMF and the governor of the Bank of England agree with the Tory plan. Why listen to Labour who caused the mess.
Miliband says Cameron has broken his promises on the economy and it all shows that the Autumn Statement should be a chance to change course.
PM says there isn't a single other mainstream party in Europe which thinks the answer to the crisis is more borrowing. Other than Labour.
Tories jeer further as Miliband accuses the PM of playing politics with young people's jobs.
Miliband says the PM was warned that cutting too fast would make it harder to get the deficit down.
PM says they have cut tax for the low paid and on corporation tax.
Ed balls has just done his strange hand gesture again. The PM has noticed.
The PM is back on low interest rates.
...accuses the PM of lots of bluster and claims that youth unemployment has shot up since June despite the work programme. It's gone up from 80,000 to 130,000 in a quarter. He calls on the PM to use a bonus tax to stimulate jobs for young people.
PM: Accuses Miliband of using the bank tax as a silver bullet for everything. No wonder Ed Balls is crying t the Antiques Roadshow.
Mass jeers from the Tories.
Ed Miliband says youth unemployment never hit 1 million under Labour. Now he wants to know how many jobs Cameron has created since June.
PM: the Work Programme is helping 20,000 young people this year. He claims his new scheme is more effective than Labour's Future Jobs Fund. He says the Work Programme pays by results, whereas Labour just put graduates into public sector jobs.
The Labour leader - who seems to have a cold - pays tributes to the fallen solidiers, plus Alan Keen MP. It's triggered a by-election in west London which Labour really can't afford to lose.
His first question is on youth unemployment and how it has risen since the scrapping of the Future Jobs Fund.
PM: youth unemployment is too high, just as it is across Europe. But he boasts the number of apprenticeships he's created.
Pm starts by paying tribute to the fallen soldiers and to Alan Keen MP who died last week.
Tory MP Andrew Bingham calls on PM to condemn next week's strikes.
PM agrees, calling the strikes "the height of irresponsibility" and says the pensions deal on the table is very good, and that Labour refuses to condemn the strikes.
While we're waiting for PMQs we thought we'd share this Early Day Motion with you... MPs - mostly Labour ones - upset about the latest edition of 'Call of Duty', with Home Affairs Commitee chair Keith Vaz among the signatories.
The fried gold is how Culture Commitee and Phone Hacking doyenne Tom Watson has joined the game with his put-down amendment.