PMQs as-it-happened

Follow all the twists and turns of this week's PMQs with's live blog.

By Ian Dunt 

11:25 – Morning all. Back again after the half-term break for another thrilling chapter in the adventure that is Cameron and Miliband throwing vacuous drivel at each other. How have you managed to survive the break? Excessive drug use, I imagine. Anything to make you forget that you would have to go a full week without watching a man with no shoulders fail to have his questions answered by a pile of smouldering pomposity. So, the big question, as ever, is what will Miliband lead with? It's a toughie this week. Vince Cable's plans to reform employment law (which you can read about here) is a candidate, although Labour's opposition is more nuanced than you might think. At the tail end of business secretary Chuka Ummuna's attack on the plans he promises to "look carefully at the proposals on tribunal rules and procedures" – code for a potential consensus depending on how the polling works out. Alternatively, there's yesterday's High Pay Commission report (read about it here), which proposed a series of measures to hammer down executive pay. That's prime territory for Miliband: The Lib Dems are on side and the Tories are supposed to be – or at least they dare not oppose it. But they won't be happy about it.  Miliband can drive Cameron uncomfortably to the left on this issue, making his backbenchers squirm. As usual – when I'm running the blog anyway – there will be typos aplenty. I'll also porobably get a few names wrong, misreport some key sentences and allow all sorts of prejudices to pollute the copy. It is a live blog after all. Everything will be cleared up afterwards, apart from the prejudice. That stays. See you at 12 for kick off.

11:59 – The PM has sat down. We're good to go. Welsh questions are wrapping up. Cameron is wearing one of those blue ties. You know, in case you didn't know which party he belongs to. I like it when they make it simple like that.

12:00 – Cameron starts with a list of five men killed during operations while PMQs was on a break. He also pays tribute to fellow MP Alan Keen, who died recently. Andrew Bingham (Con, sloppy) asks about 'mass strikes' proposed for next week. Does Cameron think it's wholly irresponsible? I wonder. Well, would you believe it, Cameron thinks it "really is irresponsible". He says the deal on offer is "extremely reasonable". I'll write again when something vaguely surprising is said.

12:05 – Miliband stands and reads the names of those killed. Beside him, Ed Balls looks like he's mulling what type of child to eat for lunch. Miliband pays tribute to Keen too. He asks what the increase is in long-term youth unemployment since he scrapped the future scheme. Cameron admits it's up. He says it's been rising since 2004.

12:07 – Cheap shot by Miliband as he says it never reached one million under Labour. The real figure, by the way, is 77%. He now asks about the figures since June, since the work programme was established. Cameron opts instead to quote David Miliband, who said youth unemployment was not created by the Tories. He then sings the praises of his programme in an entirely predictable manner. He claims it's better tailored as well

12:09 – "Lots of bluster but no answer to the question I asked," Miliband says. He quotes the figures – the entire point of this exchange. If Camerons serious those on highest incomes should help those on the lowest – ie: tax bankers' bonuses and use it to create more jobs for young people. "We've just heard a new use for the bonus tax. There have been nine already," Cameron points out. Good point. "This is the bank tax that likes to say yes. No wonder the shadow chancellor has stopped saluting and started crying." That's a reference to an interview Balls gave to Total Politics, in which he ad mitted crying at the Antiques Road Show (I know). Cameron totally monstered Miliband there. The Labour leader tries to say the PM is playing politics with youth unemployment but the hypocrisy is so severe the Tories go into an orgy of mockery. They're loving it.

12:12 – As Cameron talks Balls silently attacks him. "He's at it again, I'm afraid," Cameron says. Balls looks livid. Miliband: "There he goes again. When it goes wrong it's nothing to do with him. It's the prime minister's ABC – Anyone But Cameron to blame when things go wrong." Does that work? I'm not sure it does. He lists the PM's promises. "Their plan is failing. By the autumn statement the prime minister should change course." Cameron seems angry. He reads from growth figures in Europe – faster than France, faster than Spain etc. That's not difficult though, is it? Cameron asks if there's any other parties who believe in more borrowing to solve a debt crisis. Well, there's the Danish government for a start. "How out of touch does this prime minister sound?" Miliband says. "All he offers is complacency and more of the same. However high youth unemployment goes it's a price worth paying to save his failed plan. Unless he changes course next week one million young people will become the symbol of his failed economic plan." Strong bit there from Miliband – well delivered.

12:16 – Cameron reads quotes from the IMF/Bank of England etc. And with that, we're done. Easy win for Cameron there. If it wasn't for that final bit of flourish at the end, this would have been a wipe-out. As it is, it's Cameron: 3 Miliband 1. The next question is on… surprise, surprise – strikes!

12:19 – Oliver Letwin is chewing his nails. Danny Alexander and Michael Fabricant are huddled together reading something like a young couple in love. Perhaps they are. Plaid Cymru's Westminster leader Elfyn Llwyd asks something, but I couldn't hear it because I was trying to think of something mean and disparaging to say about him. I didn't even manage that. Epic fail. Edward Timpson (Con, impossible hair) asks about local housing. Malcolm Wicks (Lab, reliability embedded in his DNA) says Northern Rock is a modern morality tale. It has been sold to one of the "brashest companies" in Britain. Cameron reacts angrily, saying we have another functioning bank or building society on the high street lending money. On the Labour bench, Peter Hain, Balls and Miliband are all wearing the same colour of purple tie. Very regal.

12:24 – Chris Bryant (Lab, jumping the shark) wants guarantees for under-24-year-olds to have work after six months unemployment. Cameron won't do that, but he promises help of some sort within three months. Louise Mensch (Con, widely desired) says parents should take their kids to work during the strike. Cameron says everyone should be "very clear where responsibility lies" and again lays a trap for Labour, which is obviously in a difficult position. Tom Greatrix (Lab, remarkable name accompanied by a robotic manner) does his career no credit with a tedious question. It's becoming increasingly important to me that Oliver Letwin stops fiddling with his own face.

12:29 – -Stewart Jackson (Con, forgettable) wants help for Thomas Cook. Cameron says it's "iconic" and has asked for a report on its status. Helen Jones (Lab, unspeakable pink clothing) praises the NHS and wants Cameron to admit it wasn't in crisis and therefore doesn't need reform. "I'm a huge supporter and fan of our NHS," Cameron says, unconvincingly. The Labour benches groan. He makes a good fist of justifying himself, not that anyone will be convinced, or should be. "If she wants something to celebrate, mixed-sex accommodations are down 90%," he adds. John Whittingdale (Con, chairman of media committee, usually reliable) asks about a Taxpayer's Alliance report, so I stopped listening.

12:32 – Cameron praises the Alliance saying they "do a good job and don't even pay us to put down amendments" – a reference to union influence on Labour.

12:33 – Our correspondent in the chamber tweets: "Great PMQs moment during NHS question, when John Healey [former shadow health secretary] muttered something into Andrew Lansley's ear. Health secretary looked distinctly miffed." Jim Shannon (DUP, accent so thick I frankly don't understand what he's saying) asks something. Apparently he was "right to speak up on this issue". To Cameron's left, Phillip Hammond (new defence secretary) might actually be dead. He is extremely pale and lifeless. Ah, no, he has just moved. Thank heavens. And with that, PMQs comes to an end. The chamber empties as Chris Huhne gets up to make a statement.

12:37 – Well, another tedious session with no light and not even all that much heat. Cameron and Miliband tried out some new lines. Miliband isn't getting any traction here, and his choice of attack is persistently wrong. Cameron's argument that they can't pin every policy onto the bankers' tax is spot on and very effective – it plays into the sense of an opportunistic opposition. The most important development though, was Cameron's repeated attempt to get Labour on what he sees as the wrong side of the issue on public sector pensions strikes. He's a little overconfident on that. Recent YouGov polling found that while more people oppose them than support them, the numbers are relatively close. Anyway, it's a good attack and you can expect more of it in the build up to the strike. We'll have our sketch up in a moment – see you next week.