PMQs as-it-happened

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Review our live blog as David Cameron and Ed Miliband locked horns at prime minister's questions for the first time since the 2012 Queen's Speech.

11:20 - Good morning, one and all, and welcome to our live coverage of this lunchtime's prime minister's questions. As always we'll be bringing you blow-by-blow coverage of the main exchanges between David Cameron and Ed Miliband, as well as the questions put by backbenchers to Cameron - hostile and friendly alike. After our mammoth live-blogging sessions covering the local election results on May 3rd, 4th and 5th, and the many Leveson inquiry slogs we've been through, it's good to get back to covering something as calm, civilised and considered as PMQs. Oh, wait...

11:26 - The dynamic of British politics seems to have changed since the last prime minister's questions. Most significantly, the local elections of May 3rd have handed Ed Miliband the initiative. He has been on the front foot after winning over 800 councillors. The Conservatives, by contrast, suffered their worst night for 15 years - and Cameron is having to get used to the bitter pressures emerging from his backbenchers as a result. More and more Tory MPs are remembering that their leader did not win an overall majority in the 2010 election. After Cameron's many early victories against Ed Miliband, the contest at PMQs is slowly getting harder and harder for the prime minister. Let's see whether that shift in momentum is reflected today.

11:37 - So what's Ed Miliband going to be raising in his six questions? The chances are he'll opt for the economy. The unemployment rate has actually dropped by 0.2%, according to figures released this morning, so he can't moan too much about the jobs market. On the other hand, the Bank of England's inflation report is very gloomy. It's downgraded its GDP forecast for the UK economy in 2012 from 1.2% to 0.8% in just three months - a signficant reduction. Miliband ought to be able to make something out of that: we are in a double-dip recession, after all. You can read our story on today's developments here: Downgraded growth overshadows falling unemployment

11:44 - Meanwhile, in Bournemouth, the Police Federation of England and Wales is getting thoroughly worked up. Its chief Paul McKeever has whipped up the audience with a lengthy sermon on everything which is wrong with the government's police cuts. A tough gig for Theresa May, that's for sure... she's just started speaking.

11:46 - May's opening strategems are to praise the police. "But that doesn't mean everything in policing is perfect and it doesn't mean there is no need for reform," she says. Uh-oh. Trouble looming. "Broadly, what we're talking about comes down to money." No sugar, Sherlock.

11:51 - Difficult to gauge the mood of the Police Federation just yet. Their frosty silence of last year is being repeated, so far, but it won't be until she wraps up her speech that we'll be able to see if they refuse to applaud her once again. "I've always believed it's important to tell it as it is," she says a bit desperately. Very tricky for her...

11:57 - May is pluckily carrying on, as Big Ben's big hand gets closer and closer to 12. Her proposals are not going to be met with much enthusiasm, if an article by Julie Nesbit of the Police Federation we've got on politics.co.uk today is anything to go by. She's the chair of their constables committee - and isn't very happy with the coalition. Comment: May treats us police officers with contempt

11:58 - "I know you want to spend more time crime-fighting and less time form-writing," May says. Surely it is a miracle that no one hasn't come up with that awful soundbite before?

11:59 - Right - that's quite enough of May for now. Time to turn our attention to the room down the corridor from where I'm writing - namely, the Commons chamber. Northern Ireland questions is just coming to an end, so we're just moments away from the main event now.

12:02 - The Commons seems in a thoroughly boisterous mood, as PMQs gets underway.

12:04 - Paul Maynard, a Tory backbencher, kicks proceedings off. He raises unemployment in a positive way, of course, to which Cameron happily reels off some statistics. "We're not remotely complacent about this," Cameron declares. All very pre-prepared.

12:05 - Time for Ed Miliband, then. Big cheer from the Labour benches, as always. Not so much of the usual sarcastic cheer from the Tories, anymore - he's weathered that storm, it seems.

12:06 - Miliband's first question is about unemployment and the eurozone. Cameron, who was expecting EdM to complain about unemployment, ploughs on nonetheless. He says he's going to be chinwagging with new French president Francois Hollande before not too long. Britain has put forward a series of steps which could help the European economy "to move", he says. Lots of single markets, it seems, is his answer.

12:07 - Uproar in the Commons as Miliband mocks Cameron for not seeing Hollande three months ago. "I'm sure a text message and 'lol' will go down very well," says Miliband. Further uproar. Miliband's second question is on whether Cameron thinks British businesses are working hard enough.

12:08 - Cameron: "I've been overusing my mobile phone, but at least as prime minister I know how to use my mobile phone rather than throwing it at the people who work for me! Probably still see that dent..." Much hilarity there, as the PM refers to the phone-throwing habits of his predecessor in No 10. Time to quickly move on to the politics, and Cameron explains at length how much progress the coalition is making in terms of credibility.

12:09 - Ed Miliband pours scorn on Cameron for claiming that Hollande is "an ally". He adds: "What is he on?" Very odd. Then EdM moves on to police officers. Ah, the scattergun approach. That never works.

12:10 - Cameron gets a big Tory cheer on the economy, before moving on to policing. He says the Home Office is putting more police on the frontline. A spurious claim, but the Tories are delighted by it. This is an energetic performance from the prime minister, nonetheless. He claims Miliband's cuts "would be deeper because he doesn't have the courage to do the right thing".

12:11 - As Miliband returns to the economy, and police, and - well, goodness knows what his question is actually about - George Osborne mutters to David Cameron, who is looking down at his folder thoughtfully. Miliband, now clearly talking about the police, is also very upbeat and energetic. High-fallutin' stuff, this. Something something, broken promises, something something. "Oh dear," Cameron says in bullying mode. "He's having a bad day."

12:13 - "I'm extremely calm," Cameron says, after being told to calm down by the opposition frontbench. Cackling from Labour's female MPs. His substantive point is that the opposition doesn't have any credible policies. Miliband says Cameron should consider "anger management" when he goes before the Leveson inquiry. Standing up to the bully, there? His question is about nurses - have they gone up or down since DC came to power?

12:15 - Cameron delivers a very strong reply, talking about clinical staff going up. But Miliband dismisses him as having gone "back to the bunker". He accuses the PM of having got the figures wrong. He says the NHS is going through a top-down reorganisation. "He broke his promise!" Miliband declares, now wrapping up. "I know they don't like hearing about it!" he yelps, over the jeers of the government backbenchers. "They are unfair, out of touch and they stand up for the wrong people." Great stuff from Miliband.

12:16 - But the PM comes back strong, too, storming home with a list of the coalition's achievements. He then attacks Miliband's micro-reshuffle, replacing Liam Byrne with Jon Cruddas. "I often wonder whether his biggest problem is he's weak or left-wing - he's both!"

12:17: Big laugh from the Speaker, who asks for short questions before calling on the most long-winded of them all: the Father of the House, Sir Peter Tapsell. His question about the 'big bazooka' of the eurozone is actually quite short. Cameron says the eurozone has to build a "proper firewall" and "secure the weakest members of the eurozone". "It either has to make up, or it is looking like it has to break up."

12:18 - Meg Hillier raises the vetting of Cameron's former communications chief, Andy Coulson. Cameron is in shrugging-it-off mode. "When it came to it, Andy Coulson was in the process of being development vetted," he says. Rather meanly, he tells Hillier to "go and look somewhere else" for the "smoking gun" she's after.

12:20 - My snap verdict on those exchanges was that of a very high-scoring draw. Miliband was on form, although the scattergun approach can be a bit ineffective. Cameron came back strong, too, demonstrating exactly why he's so adept at these sorts of events. All in all, a better-than-average session. Let's see how the PM hopes with the remaining backbencher questions. Meanwhile, let me know your thoughts by posting in the Facebook comments box to the right.

12:22 - After the PM laments the leak of a report due out next Monday affecting Northern Ireland, Stuart Andrew, the Pudsey MP, is very keen on the right-to-buy for council housing. So, it turns out, is the prime minister.

12:24 - Ian Austin, a Labour backbencher, sums up the omnishambles in recent months. Cameron says he should recognise that the unemployment rate has fallen. The Bank of England's governor said the coalition was coming up with a "textbook response" to the mess made by "people like him". Sarcastic cheers greet Pauline Latham, the Conservative MP for Mid-Derbyshire, who begins her question by saying times are tough.

12:27 - Jason McCartney, a Tory, is sounding very pleased about the progress made by his local Huddersfield Town. He asks about apprenticeships. A textbook example of a loyalist question, there. Cameron says he wishes Huddersfield Town, but warns doing so may mean they fall victim to the "prime minister's curse".

12:29 - Simon Danczuk, the Rochdale MP, raises the case of the nine vulonerable girls in his constituency who suffered at the hands of a sex ring. He wants a serious case review from the government. Cameron says the girls were "brave" to come forward. "There are particular problems in particular communities, and we need to be brave to say that," he says, avoiding stating which kind of community it is that's being referred to. He says he is prepared to look at the option of a serious case review.

12:31 - Dan Jarvis, Labour's MP for Barnsley Central, is fed up with the government's lack of strategy on care. Cameron questions the figures he raises on adult social care. He says there'll be a white paper. "When?" Jarvis asks. "He says when - they had 13 years!" Cameron replies, quite high-pitched there. Two years since Labour left power, it's amazing that that is still being deployed by the PM.

12:32 - Peter Hain, speaking from the backbenches after quitting yesterday, suggests that the Severn barrage is a "no-brainer" - a thoroughly irritating American phrase, pardon me. "I'm very happy to listen to his views," Cameron replies, studiously sounding as neutral and non-commital as possible.

12:34 - We're into PMQs overtime, now a tradition under Speaker John Bercow. Tory MP Chris Pincher gives Cameron the opportunity to wax lyrical on the virtues of the government's work programme. Then another New Labour oldie, Alan Johnson, asks a question about getting the regional growth fund's money flowing. Cameron says the overhead costs are much lower under the coalition's version of this. And that's that.

12:36 - MPs are streaming out of the Commons chamber now - they're in a hurry for their lunches, of course. A fairly quiet session after the main exchanges, then, but boy oh boy - they were good ones. That seemed to me one of the better clashes between this pair. After the local elections have underlined the fact that Labour is making progress, both party leaders seem to have raised their game. Do leave your verdict on the right-hand-side of this page, but I'm off - time to write a news story. Thanks for following our coverage!
 

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