PMQs 25 January 2012 - GDP, NHS, RBS

25/01/2012 11:11 | Updated 25 January 2012

It's Huffpost UK's weekly coverage of PMQs, and as you might expect Ed Miliband kicked off by asking David Cameron about the GDP figures released earlier on Wednesday.

The main revelation was that a committee will meet this week to pave the way for Sir Fred Goodwin to potentially be stripped of his knighthood, and Downing Street was immediately inundated with queries about how that process might work.

Ed Miliband didn't go hell-for-leather on GDP, reserving three of his six questions for NHS Reform, which is very quickly running out of supporters, even among Tories. But on the economy Ed Miliband accused the government of "arrogance and complacency" over the economy, and all David Cameron can do is recycle his previous missives about record low interest rates, and all the initiatives the government are doing. And of course, remind us that it's much worse in Europe, because it clearly is.

Opinion is divided; even those who support the government's austerity agenda are worried that more needs to be done to stimulate growth. Earlier this week the National Audit Office cast grave doubts about the government's Work Programme to stimulate the jobs market, and our national debt passed £1 trillion.

It felt a bit like a score-draw for Cameron and Miliband this week. The Labour leader was bolstered by big cheers and roars from his backbenchers, which makes a change. For many, many weeks, the Tories have managed to cheer louder, and from inside the Commons the difference is palpable. Not so much this week, though. Cameron managed some good attacks on Miliband - but most of them didn't come in their head-to-head exchanges, they were delivered as asides to other questions from backbenchers.

He accused Miliband of "panic and backstabbing" every time Labour came under attack by the unions, and all Ed Miliband could do was shake his head.

Despite this, David Cameron must feel as though the public hasn't lost patience with him, even if Labour and the unions have. Remarkably despite all the economic doom and gloom, the Tories remain incredibly buoyant in the polls. And for that reason, once again the pressure remains on Ed Miliband to perform more than the Prime Minister.

It was a lively and fun PMQs which cast far more heat than light. But Cameron will be pleased that the attention this afternoon will shift to Sir Fred Goodwin, who's clearly more unpopular than the PM and Ed Miliband combined.

Here's how it played out in detail:


25/01/2012 12:35 GMT

And that's it....

Not sure how to call it. Ed Miliband didn't do anything wrong in particular, he was pretty bullish and persistent, and as last week on the unemployment figures, all the PM can do at the moment is point out all the initiatives like the Work Programme he's introduced.

A score draw, really, when we haven't learned much new, but Cameron got some attacks in on Miliband during other questions from backbenchers, probably better comebacks than he managed during his exchanges with Miliband.

One thing is certain, Labour backbenchers were noisy and supportive of their leader. This has often been lacking. There's hope for Ed yet.

25/01/2012 12:31 GMT

Cameron attacking Ed Miliband, who cannot reply.

He is criticising Ed Miliband, accusing him of "irresponsibility and short-termism"

The Labour leader is snarling and shaking his head. But his questions are up, there's nothing he can do about it. That's the PM's in-built advantage.

25/01/2012 12:29 GMT

Easy question from Chris Kelly (Con)

It's on the Labour flip-flopping on the benefit cap votes in the Lords.

Cameron accuses Miliband of saying on the radio that he'd back the cap, only for the Labour peers to vote against it.

"What is he, weak, incompetent or both?" Cameron bellows.

25/01/2012 12:28 GMT

Consensus on twitter is a win for Ed M

@ joeyjonessky :

I thought mili did v well today, and unexpected health questions forced uncomfortable issue back up agenda a bit

25/01/2012 12:28 GMT

Chris Ruane (Lab) on the Work Programme

What does the PM make of the NAO report with its doubts on the Work Programme?

PM says Ruane hasn't read the report properly. It says the risk is on the part of the providers - the potential employers - not the taxpayer.

25/01/2012 12:27 GMT

Colonel Bob Stewart (Con)

He says the will be families who will have difficulties with the benefit regime. But what about elderly couples who have paid into the system throughout their lives, who now exist on £7,000 a year rather than the £26,000 maximum which will still exist after the changes?

Cameron: yes, many people couldn't dream of living in houses currently occupied by people living on benefits of more than £50,000 a year.

25/01/2012 12:24 GMT

Lisa Nandy on lobbying (lab)

She asks about yesterday's reports that special advisers went to networking events with lobbyists.

PM - dodges the issue but says we are reforming the lobbyist system with a planned register.

25/01/2012 12:23 GMT

Benefits Cap has come up

Cameron says the 26-per-year cap is "fair" and he was disappointed by Labour's hypocrisy in voting against the cap in the Lords.

25/01/2012 12:23 GMT

Eric Ollwrenshaw (Con)

Highly supportive of the benefit cap, saying his constituents want to see people working. In his Lancashire seat many households bring in less than the proposed £26,000 cap proposed.

Cameron, unsurprisingly agrees.

25/01/2012 12:22 GMT

Cameron on Holocaust Memorial Day

He says he met a "truly inspiring" holocaust survivor yesterday, and gives a shout out to the holocaust educational trust. "We need to make sure these stories are told in our schools," the PM says.

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