PMQs as it happened

Alex Stevenson By

11:00 - Hello, good morning everyone, and welcome to Politics.co.uk's live coverage of today's most exciting fixture - the Ashes. Oh no, wait. That's a little outside our remit. So we'll have to settle for the less thrilling, but arguably more important, occasion of prime minister's questions this lunchtime. Coming up at noon we'll have the first PMQs since the last one - you know, the one where David Cameron lambasted Ed Miliband for some sort of row in Falkirk.

11:06 - It's worth focusing on the comments from Paul Kenny of the GMB union this morning - you can read our story about it here. "The union's a collective body, a collective voice and it affiliates collectively. Ed wants to end that collective affiliation." He says it will cost Miliband £1.7 million "from us alone". A deliberate attempt to be pessimistic, here. "If he only accepts individual money from people, that means there won't be that much money left in the general pot from their agreement to go to the party. The way it's framed currently I think it's inevitable there will be between 75 and 90%."

11:10 - As Ed Miliband's monstrous union gamble gets underway today - the phrase 'begins to unravel' is a little premature, but it's tempting to use it - we can expect this PMQs to be more exciting than usual. A Labour source told me last night that a "massive offensive" is beginning today against the Tories on party funding; of course prime minister's questions provides the stage for Miliband to mount this attack.

11:15 - Hopes fade for a party funding deal

This would involve Labour calling for a £5,000 donation cap - right down at the extreme low end. Doesn't seem very plausible that the Tories would accept that - or, for that matter, that Labour would accept the Tory/Lib Dem calls to give union members the option to fund other political parties, too. Oh, Labour will come to the negotiating table. But they're much more interested in being as partisan as possible. "We're doing it because we hate the Tories" is the simple explanation. Not exactly setting the frame for a grown-up conversation, then.

11:25 - The Telegraph have picked up on an important subplot in this week's PMQs: the varying fortunes of the MP for Cambridge, Julian Huppert, a man who tends to get ruthlessly jeered whenever he pops up to ask questions. There seems to be a bit of a vicious circle going on here: he looks a bit out of the ordinary and so gets mocked, so the Speaker calls him to speak more to show that Huppert can stand up to his bullies, so other MPs get resentful that he's being called to speak lots and do more heckling and jeering... and so we all pass the time of day. This week Huppert will be one of the first MPs to speak in the session - he's second on the order paper. Brace yourselves...

 

Unacceptable RT @Alex__Stevenson: Yday Boris Johnson rptdly referred to "Mister Doctor Huppert" on the home affairs committee #Huppertwatch

— Telegraph Politics (@TelePolitics) July 10, 2013

 

11:38 - Here's the batting order for this lunchtime's session:

11:43 - At Trent Bridge, the terrible news is that Alastair Cook has been caught behind off the bowling of James Pattinson. It's quite hard to work out exactly how this relates to British politics, but who cares?

11:50 - In the Commons chamber right now Northern Ireland questions, the PMQs warm-up, is well underway. Theresa Villiers is wearing a very Miss Scarlet-esque red suit. I don't suppose anyone's mentioned this before, but if this were the 19th century she would be a perfect model for the Pre-Raphaelites...

11:57 - A lot of the buildup to PMQs on Twitter is about Ed Miliband having to be on the defensive. This is nonsense - the whole point of yesterday was to put him in a position to go on the offensive. Expect second jobs to be mentioned, and an appeal for a party funding deal laden with plenty of partisan sarcasm/cynicism.

12:00 - Ed Miliband is now gulping down some water on the opposition front bench. David Cameron is in position too - a navy blue suit and tie today. He hasn't gone for the 'cornfield sunset' option favoured by Rob Halfon earlier this week...

12:02 - The first question is from John Glen. Cameron begins by congratulating Andy Murray on "his historic Wimbledon success". This is a "fantastic achievement and will rightly go down in our history books".

12:03 - Now Glen's actual question - and the first intervention from John Bercow. Is that a record for the quickest interruption from the Speaker in a PMQs?

12:05 - Here's Ed Miliband, who is cheered by the Labour backbenchers very heartily. He begins with a tribute to Andy Murray "following Virginia Wade's victory in 1977". That makes Harriet Harman smile. He leads with party funding, asking about the Tories' donations from hedge funds. "I'm not surprised!" Cameron replies, before Bercow interrupts. "Let's be clear what this real scandal is about. It's about trade union fixing of political appointments to this House, that's what it's about," he responds. Miliband looks just like he did last night - scared.

12:06 - Ed Miliband tells Bercow Cameron "didn't want to answer the question, did he?" This is the "massive offensive" my source was talking about. He answers the question - £25 million from hedge funds. In the Budget, Miliband says, hedge funds got a massive tax cut. Cameron responds by pointing out the top tax rate is higher under this coalition than it ever was under New Labour. Cameron is devastating in response, but Miliband is hitting back. This is a fairly even fight right now.

12:09 - "He doesn't even know about the extra tax cut he gave to hedge funds," Miliband continues. He then puts a proposal forward - yes, it's £5,000 - for a donation cap on party funding. Cameron's response - dealing with Labour funding from the unions - sums up exactly why any party funding deal is doomed. The temperature in the House is incredibly high right now. "There is a problem with a £5,000 cap and it's this," Cameron says. "It would imply a massive amount of taxpayer support for political parties," he explains. Huge cheers from the Tory backbenches.

12:11 - "He's ducking funding reform!" Miliband responds. Does this mean he'll support more state funding for politics? Miliband's moving on, though, to MPs' second jobs. Cameron thinks what matters is if everything's "transparent and open". The PM comes up with his own "offer" - the trade unions bill. This is grandstanding on a very grand scale here. "We will legislate," Cameron promises, on everything he wants.

12:13 - This is horribly chaotic. Miliband ignores the "offer", and presses on with his second jobs pressure. It's not proving nearly as effective as I'd expected. "As well as ending new directorships and consultancies, there should be a limit in the next parliament about how much people can earn on top of their MP's salary," Miliband says. Cameron simply jumps back to the trade union stitch-up. They may as well talk to each other in separate rooms, there's no dialogue or actual debate going on here at all. Cameron finishes:  "They own you lock, stock and block vote!". Miliband responds: "This is a man owned by a few millionaires."

12:14 - Two party funding systems - "the party of the people, the party of privilege," Miliband says. Cameron responds: "It's not the party of the people, it's the party of Len McCluskey. They buy the candidates, they buy the policies, they buy the leader." And then here's Cameron's final comment, referencing Tom Watson's resignation letter: "No wonder he wants to think like Buddha, he wants to come back as a proper leader!"

12:15 - Next is Julian Huppert, who is listened to in fairly civil terms after the din of the main exchanges. It's all relative - but he has snuck in rather well there under the radar.

12:18 - So here's my snap verdict on the main exchanges: Cameron was stronger than Miliband once again. That's bad news for the Labour leader, who had set himself up to go on the offensive. It didn't really work, because Miliband allowed Cameron to focus on the Unite scandal, not the new agenda for reform he's pushing. The PM's 'offer' to legislate against the trade unions immediately should have been rejected outright by Miliband, rather than ignored completely. This was an opportunity for Miliband to engage with Cameron, but one he ultimately turned down. Rather disappointing.

12:20 - Back in the Commons chamber, then, and Jacob Rees-Mogg is pulling the PM up about the justice and home affairs package of powers deal done yesterday. Rees-Mogg wonders whether Cameron's bottling it when it comes to the repatriation of powers. Cameron says 98 powers have been repatriated. Which, it should be pointed out, is only two short of 100.

12:22 - The standard welfare to-and-fro, a staple of the Labour backbench contributions, is followed by a question about aid money to Rwanda. Cameron wants a "very clear message". Then comes Phil Wilson, the Labour MP for Sedgefield: "How many jobs should an MP have?" Cameron responds by citing a couple of Labour MPs - David Blunkett and Jack Straw, I think? It doesn't get more complimentary than this: "There are honourable members opposite who give good service to this House!"

12:25 - Andy Sawford gets a lot of cheers for raising party funding, but Cameron is cheered even more for attacking Labour's union funding. "O--ooo-rderrr!" Bercow yells, and that's the end of that.

12:27 - Cathy Jamieson follows Sawford in backing up Ed Miliband. Cameron, when presented with a questionable Tory donation, says Labour "can bluster all they want, but they've been found out in Falkirk and they've been found out across the country".

12:28 - Helen Goodman, Labour, says the banking reforms are turning out to be a bit rubbish. "What did the last government do?" Cameron asks. He's got his pecker up and seems to be batting away these questions with a little more vim than usual.

12:30 - One Labour MP claims on Twitter that William Hague muttered "stupid woman" in response to the Cathy Jamieson question. A Labour peer, meanwhile, says Cameron should have answered the question better. "This is QUESTION time!" he tweets.

12:32 - Cameron just overreached himself a bit there. He suggested that Labour is refusing to investigate the Falkirk scandal, which isn't right at all. Miliband is grinning as the PM goes on like this. He seems a little more relaxed now than he was last week. At least he knew this was coming.

12:33 - After a slow start, a rash of Labour MPs have jumped to follow up questions against the Tories' donors. We're now over-running, too - something Bercow had promised would happen because of all the heckling earlier. They're being kept behind, like school pupils in detention.

12:35 - A question from Stephen McCabe, wondering whether it's Lynton McCrosby who's behind Cameron behaving like "Senator McCarthy". That wasn't so clever, because it implies that Labour MPs are victims. Which isn't quite right, is it?

12:36 - OK, that's it for this week. It was about as robust and exciting as we'd have expected - although to be honest I thought Cameron was able to combat Miliband a little more effectively than I'd expected. Final score? Cameron 2 - Miliband 1.

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