PMQs as it happened
11:25 – Hello one. Hello all. If this week's prime minister's questions session is anything last week's, we're in for a humdinger this lunchtime. I was actually on holiday last week, sunning myself in the Mediterranean after three weeks of excess at the party conferences, but even from there I managed to pick up some of the reverberations from what was a pretty torrid affair for David Cameron. Yes, he was able to brag about unemployment figures. But when it came to 'plebgate' it all went horribly wrong. "I didn't swear", Andrew Mitchell mouthed. Ed Miliband conducted a demolition job, saying Mitchell was "toast". Two days later, that assessment was found to be broadly accurate when the chief whip quit. Meanwhile, Cameron deepened his vendetta with Chris Bryant, and somewhere in there the PM announced an energy policy which unravelled dramatically over the rest of the week.
11:30 – This week the state of play has changed somewhat. We've got GDP figures coming out tomorrow which are almost certainly going to see a return to positive growth, ending the UK's double-dip recession. Cameron will want to make the most of that. So Miliband's focus may be on the story that's been on top of the headlines this week: the Jimmy Savile shocker and the mess that is the British Broadcasting Corporation. Miliband may use this as the moment to call for an inquiry outside that already underway by the BBC. It will be difficult for him to make Cameron himself the target, but Labour will no doubt come up with something. The story is too big for him to ignore.
11:55 – Right – we're nearly ready to go now. The Commons chamber is slowly filling up. Northern Ireland questions are nearly over. Big Ben is nearly pointing to noon. Is this the first question session for new Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers? I think it might be.
11:58 – If Miliband does decide to go for the economy today, he needs to be careful: I was speaking with YouGov's Joe Twyman earlier for our weekly podcast, and he warned that historically Labour need a midterm polling advantage of at around 20% if they're to have a decent chance of getting an overall majority. Right now it does look as if the Conservatives will also struggle to get an overall majority; there may well be another hung parliament in the offing in 2015, and it may well be the economy which is to blame for it.
12:03 – A bit of a delay here, as Speaker John Bercow allows Northern Ireland questions to run on a bit. Gives the prime minister, who is now in his place and wearing a very natty light blue tie, a bit more time to compose himself.
12:04 – Bob Stewart, the Tory colonel, asks the first question. He wants the "full panoply" of government powers to investigate "MR Jimmy Savile". Cameron says the BBC has "serious questions to answer – above all, how did he get away with this so long?" He won't rule out "further steps" and announces the director of public prosecutions' principal legal adviser is going to reconsider the case.
12:06 – Ed Miliband begins his set of six questions. He's leading with the energy mess-up from last week. Cameron carries on as if nothing has gone wrong. Ed Davey, the energy secretary, looks utterly fed up as he stares out across the opposition. "We need to go further," the PM continues. Miliband says: "The only people who were baffled last week were his ministers who didn't know anything about the policy." He says it has "totally unravelled". Miliband having a great time here. "He doesn't do the detail… he got caught out." Cameron won't have any of it. And he's really struggling here.
12:08 – Cameron attacks Miliband for changing his mind on energy policy. All very preprepared. "I'm all in favour of switching, but this is ridiculous." Miliband gets lots of cheers when he responds by being very happy to talk about his record as energy secretary. "While I was the energy secretary, the average dual fuel bill fell by an average of £110. Under him it's risen by £200!" George Osborne, shouting out, gets shouted down in turn by Labour MPs. It's pretty chaotic in the Commons right now.
12:10 – Miliband uses Osborne to pivot on to the west coast main line franchise fiasco. Justine Greening, the former transport secretary, is shaking her head slowly. Cameron would much rather talk about energy policy. He reels off some statistics of his own about the profits of the energy companies. "We've dealt with that. By the way, sorry, while we're on his energy record…" Oh dear. The prime minister getting a bit confused here. It's all rather choppy and messy. No answer on the rail franchise question, as Miliband points out. "Even he is taking his habit of not answering questions to a new level." The usual big cheer from Labour MPs when Miliband says he's very happy to swap places. Then he gets in a jibe against Osborne: "It's not a ticket that needs upgrading, it's the chancellor of the exchequer!" This is neither big nor clever, but none of the Labour backbenchers seem to mind.
12:12 – Now, finally, Cameron gets on to the rail. He doesn't take long about it, before launching into another random attack on Miliband not having any policies. "That's why he stands up and tells a whole load of rubbish jokes." Miliband, who is actually being more focused and grown-up, says ministers are just playing "follow my leader" in not coming up with answers. Lots of laughter from Labour MPs as Miliband quotes Cameron in opposition calling for "competent" government. Cameron counters with some audience participation of his own – inflation down, borrowing down, etc, etc.
12:14 – Scornful Miliband says it's been another "disastrous week for the government". "There's nobody else left to blame for the shambles of his government – it goes right to the top." Cameron doesn't think that inflation coming down is a bad thing. He looks extremely vulnerable and genuinely rattled. There's a note of embattled defiance as he finishes with: "I can tell him the good news will keep coming." A clear win for Miliband there – the news cycle of the last week has been overwhelmingly in favour, and – unlike on many previous occasions – he made no mistake in pummelling the PM there.
12:15 – On to the backbenchers, now, and Cameron is being pressed about police officers. He employs the same approach to cuts, insisting that in the short-term at least the total number of police officers has actually gone up. It all makes the whole process rather meaningless when politics gets down to this level. And then comes Peter Bone, the usually troublemaking Tory MP who on this occasion gets in behind the Tories in their troubled Corby by-election. "It's the Conservatives getting behind growth and jobs and the future," Cameron says. He knows he's already lost that constituency to the opposition.
12:18 – Aside from the mutual bashing from Labour and Tory MPs, it's important to note that home secretary Theresa May is wearing a delightful green jacket today. And a big necklace of white, shiny objects. Excellent stuff. Cripsin Blunt, a former minister who is now merely known as the MP for Reigate, gets right in behind rehabilitation. He says the Treasury will be "inventive and creative" when it comes to getting prisons to improve their performances. No pressure, George.
12:20 – Gavin Shuker, the Luton South MP, gets in a counter to Peter Bone on Corby – well, Kettering, anyway – and concludes that the Tories can't be trusted on the NHS. Cameron says it's no surprise Labour MPs are moaning about that sort of thing. Then comes Debbie Abrahams, who won the Saddleworth by-election in January 2011, who asks a question about party political donations. It's so easy for Cameron to attack the trade union system which funds Labour. "That's the scandal in funding parties," he finishes. He's made that point literally hundreds of times before.
12:22 – Jimmy Carr is raised in the House of Commons – crikey – by the public accounts committee's chair Margaret Hodge. She says he dodged £3.3 million of tax and invites some moral condemnation of companies that also dodge whatever tax they can. "We do need to make sure we're encouraging these businesses to invest in this country as they are," he qualifies, undermining his own point.
12:23 – Next is the Father of the House, Sir Peter Tapsell, who wants to know why his "right honourable fwend" thinks the euro needs a banking union. He explains, in ponderous tones, that the "death of democracy" is at stake here. He suggests "the least painful solution" may be "the abolition of the euro". Cameron, who is good at dealing with old Tory fuddy-duddies, argues that a banking union offers greater security.
12:25 – The Commons seems especially divisive, after a Labour MP raises the privileged educations of the chief whips – both last week's and this week's. Then it's the turn of Rob Wilson, the Reading East Tory MP, who raises the Savile issue. Cameron says the BBC's two inquiries "do qualify as independent inquiries". That's significant in itself. It makes it very difficult for the prime minister to subsequently order another inquiry.
12:26 – In a related question about the government holding back information to the Leveson inquiry, Cameron is on the defensive once again. He says ministers haven't held anything back at all.
12:28 – A Labour MP, Michael Connarty, confronts the prime minister over the government's opposition to his private member's bill, which was blocked by whips last Friday. All the PM can do is promise to look at the reasons for it, and "perhaps write". That probably won't make Connarty entirely happy.
12:30 – After a question from Lib Dem Simon Wright about renewable energy, Derek Twigg raises the sensitive issue of prisoner voting. MPs will be listening carefully here. "I don't want prisoners to have the vote and they shouldn't get the vote." He says he's happy for the Commons, which has already voted overwhelmingly in agreement with that position, to do so again if it will iron out any legal issues. But Brussels, he finishes, "should not have any doubt – prisoners are not getting the vote under this government".
12:32 – Tom Watson raises a rather complicated question about a senior aide to a former prime minister and a paedophile ring. Gasps from the office around me – we'll need to look at that one again. For now, it's time for Tory eccentric Jacob Rees-Mogg, one of parliament's more entertaining MPs, to raise concerns about Leveson interfering with the free press. "One can obsess too much about how these things are done," Cameron says, airily. Of course he won't really comment on this beyond broad principles, which he proceeds to do.
12:33 – Mike Crockart, the Lib Dem MP for Edinburgh West, asks what Cameron calls a "baffling question about a truly baffling situation". This is the Alex Salmond story, of course. "What this shows is when you shine the spotlight on the case for separation that the SNP put, it completely falls apart." That is something that the vast majority of MPs in Westminster can agree upon, and it gets lots of cheers as a result.
12:35 – Meg Munn, the former Labour minister, is worried about child protection rules. Cameron says the governments tried to "simplify" the process – prompting lots of concerns, as you'd expect. A meeting will take place. And that ends the session. David Cameron makes a quick dash for the exit, and that's another tough day at the office over with. Time for some chillaxing. Or, just possibly, governing.
12:37 – And that, as they say, is that. This was a horrendous session for the prime minister, who was lashed by Ed Miliband repeatedly over the government's competence record. Miliband is now trying to tie the omnishambles to Cameron personally – a narrative which is already having real traction with voters. Of course, it was interesting that the prime minister countered by criticising Miliband's lack of policies. Right now voters do not see Miliband as a plausible figure to enter No 10 in 2015, even if he took some steps in the right direction in his party conference speech this lunchtime. The long attritional struggle that is British politics in a fixed-term parliament continues… If someone can work out how many PMQs there are going to be until the next general election let me know!