PMQs as-it-happened

By

11:37 - OK, we're back. Memories of Christmas and New Years are starting to fade into a collage of overeating and simmering familial resentments. Now there is just the bleak year ahead: politicians of middling ability barking empty phrases across the Commons, austerity followed by austerity and more austerity as far as the mind can comprehend. The joys of being British and alive. No surprises for the topics today. The government's line-by-line audit of progress on its original pledges is out later. It's proper PMQWs fodder, Ed Miliband will undoubtedly make the most of it. Also, expect a mention of trade minister Jonathan Marland, who became the second front-bench Lord to step down this week, giving the coalition that little dash of omnishambles it likes to pepper its presentations with. Kick off is at 12:00 GMT.

12:00 - And we're off.

12:02 - Karl McCartney (Con, oh so Tory) kicks off with a loyal question on the benefits cap. He has been a good boy and done what we was told to do. Cameron does the obvious. Miliband is up.

12:03 - As expected Miliband asks why Cameron didn't publish the audit of broken promises at the same time as his coalition relaunch. Cameron is obviously prepared. "We said we'd cut the deficit - it's down by 25%". That sort of thing. "He's going to have to do better than that," Miliband replies.

12:04 - "Was it his decision not to publish the audit because it would overshadow..." Miliband can't get past the line as the Commons erupts. "Calm down," Miliband urges. Cameron: "It's my decision to publish this afternoon. Is this really the best he can do?" Cameron is defending well here. He then mocks Miliband for his benefits position. "The only people on the wrong side of the argument are him and his chancellor who are trying to divide the country," Miliband replies. It was a good reply, serious in its delivery. Miliband wants confirmation that the pledge of there being no reorganisation of the NHS is on the audit. It gets the better of Cameron.

12:07 - Miliband performing strongly here, on a roll. Now he asks if the audit will acknowledge that he has failed to make sexual inequality history? "The tax and benefits changes he is making are hitting women three times as hard as men," he says. Cameron says there are more women in work than at any time in our history. "What a contrast between a government prepared to publish information about every pledge and a party opposite which will not apologise for the mess it left the economy in." Miliband counters: "After that answer it's no surprise he took no questions from women journalists at his press conference." Cheap shot, but effective. Miliband mentions the 50p top rate debate and says it should be top of the broken promises list - we're not all in it together, basically. Cameron offers the standard 50p response.

12:10 - Cameron counters strongly with a 'Labour audit'. It earns strong support from the Tory benches. It sucks some of Miliband's momentum. "He's a PR man who can't even do a re-launch," Miliband says. "They're incompetent, they break their promises and the nasty party is back." Cameron replies with an attack on Ed Balls. "He's got a shadow chancellor who he won't back but he can't sack." Trying to highlight a divide between Miliband and Balls is a key Osborne tactic, but it's not really effective - there's not enough news coverage (because it ain't really so) for it to resonate with the public.

12:13 - Cameron has rarely sounded as posh (or right-wing) as he does when he responds to a question on fox-hunting. "I do not break the law and the only red pests I pursue are in this House".

12:14 - That last line is unhelpful to the PM, he should have avoided that sort of talk but he seemed to slip into it. Cameron hammered Miliband pretty effectively during their exchange. The Labour leader took it just fine, without losing his composure. But Miliband didn't manage to rub the PM's nose in it enough for his liking, considering the ammunition at his disposal. Final score: Miliband 2 Cameron 2.

12:18 - Stephen Phillips (Con, frantic eyes, composed body) wants guarantees on our relationship with Europe. Cameron guarantees some sort of change although he's mum on what it would be - until his speech next week I guess. Chris Evans (Lab, teenager) mocks Cameron's embarrassing Lord resignations in a suitably school-boy way. It's unimpressive stuff but at least he put in the effort. Peter Tapsell (Con, father of the House, takes his time) is up. He asks if the royal bloodline bill is accepted by the Palace. "Throughout the process there's been very, very thorough contact between Downing Street and the Palace," Cameron says.

12:22 - I slightly misquoted Cameron in that fox hunting response. He actually said he'd "never" broken the law. That's potentially relevant, because it's understood that he sort of has, not least with some misbehaviour in Eton. If he's mislead the House he could be forced to say so, which on this matter particularly would be embarrassing. It'll probably come to nothing.

12:23 - For more on that misbehaviour.

12:25 - Shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant tweets: "Cameron has broken the law on several occasions. Just lied to parliament." This could get fun.

12:26 - Claire Perry (Con, headmistress from the 1970's) is watched ominously by a grimacing Bill Cash as she asks about education policy.

12:28 - Important question from Nigel Dodds (DUP) as he asks about the violence in Northern Ireland. He wants a meeting on legislation for increasing democratic participation in deprived communities, a look at the state of the electoral register and an assessment of prejudice against members of his party in Westminster. Cameron's response is interesting. He wants to "throw back to the challenge to his party" to build a "shared future". The shared future rhetoric is meaningless but the tone is interesting. Phillip Davis (Con, quite mad) asks if Cameron is closer to Clegg or Lord Tebbit. "I managed to get through Christmas without seeing either one of them. I am closer to all Conservatives than I am to people from any other party." Clegg plasters a good-natured grin on his face as the Commons laughs.

12:33 - And we're done. As usual, Bercow's efforts to bring matters to a halt are only just audible over someone shouting "disgraceful". The rest of the Commons makes the handbags noise and then everyone files out for lunch, leaving Grayling alone to make some statement or other which no-one will listen to, including us.

12:34 - Pretty bog-standard PMQs there. The main exchange is a draw although Cameron will be happy for neutralising Miliband's attack, even if there was no loss of face for the Labour leader. The 'breaking the law' angle will entertain the lobby and online world for the afternoon until the audit comes out. As for the audit: someone somewhere is frantically rewriting something. Go take your lunch and be glad you're not them.

Get involved Get Involved