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June 2015: The New Look PMQs

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

 

The first Prime Minister’s Questions took place today. Missing, and somewhat strange, was the absence of Nick Clegg from the front bench and Ed Miliband and the expert jeerer Ed Balls on the benches opposite.

In their place though was the face of interim Labour leader Harriet Harman and the very new Angus Robertson, leader of the Westminster Scottish Nationalists, as they took their place from the Liberal Democrats as the third largest party in parliament next to a still uncomfortable looking Dennis Skinner MP.

We also saw the new look camera angles for televising the House of Commons, something else to get used to, and the new class of 2015 who were easily spotted because they were either wearing head to toe party colours or hadn’t quite perfected their ability to nod continuously in agreement for up to ten minutes.

David Cameron, cheered to unprecedented levels of hysteria by his excitable backbenchers, was a little rusty to get out his headline news one-liners, but overall pretty solid. However there must have been a collective yawn across the country when he made reference to still “cleaning up the mess” from the last government. Seriously have we got this line for another for five years?

Questions from the PM’s own benches looked to cement the manifesto and Queen’s Speech proposals aside from Andrew Mitchell who forced a side-ways move from the Prime Minister when asking if he’d make a commitment to stay signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Harriet Harman focused her questions on affordable housing and home ownership. Mr. Cameron challenged her on whether Labour would back Housing Association tenants being able to buy their own homes describing the party as “the enemy of aspiration.” 

Ms. Harman also asked where the £12bn cuts in welfare would come from. The Prime Minister ducked this question without any pretense of being subtle. However the Labour leader did hit a nerve when saying that the Prime Minister, who spent his first term in office blaming the last government, would have no such luxury this time around.

On the mute no clapping allowed, SNP benches, Angus Robertson, chose a question about resettling refugees from the Mediterranean as his first question. The word “Scotland” wasn’t even uttered but the sub-text was to have a go at the big bad Tories. We'll see plenty of that in the weeks to come.

The best line was that whilst the PM’s was the party of aspiration, the party opposite i.e. Labour couldn’t even spell it, although even that was a little thrown-in. Harriet Harman has a few of these until they select the new Labour Leader on 12 September but she'd better watch out as Cameron will get into his stride pretty quick.

Watch PMQs: 3rd June 2015

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