PMQs as-it-happened

PMQs live blog
PMQs live blog
Ian Dunt By

11:33 - Oh the fun. We've never really seen a Lib Dem scandal before. Breaking a promise on tuition fees doesn't count. I'm talking full-on feral press pack scandal. Nick Clegg's managed it very well. He's changed his story several times, inserted purposefully vague words in a statement guaranteed to send hacks into a Bacchic frenzy and included fundamental logical fallacies. Good to know the Lib Dems stopped operating like an amateurish local party association once they got into power. Ed Miliband is in the odd position of wanting to ask all his questions to the man next to the prime minister, rather than the prime minister himself. But that's OK - plenty of ground to be covered by highlighting the gap between David Cameron and Clegg.  I'll be doing live coverage until it's over. The usual caveats apply: There will be typos aplenty, which we will clear up when it's all over. I apologise in advance for anyone who gets offended. Kick-off is at midday.

11:56 - It's Welsh questions and minister Stephen Crabb is wearing a well trimmed, purposefully shabby beard. Ben Affleck has a lot to answer for.

11:58 - Cameron's in. Miliband is arriving. He'll have to do Rennard, won't he? It can't all be the economy. (Please let it be Rennard).

12:00 - And we're off.


12:01 - Cameron is asked about John O'Farrell's words saying he was sorry Thatcher didn't get killed during the Brighton bomb. Planted question, decent effort to get Miliband to respond to Cameron rather than the other way round. It doesn't work. Miliband focuses on the credit rating, quoting Cameron saying keeping the Triple A rating was his main goal. Cameron tries to get Miliband to condemn Farrell. It's desperate stuff and isn't working.

12:03 - Miliband quotes more from Cameron's old words. You can imagine. "Safeguarding Britain's credit rating is a benchmark for which the British people can judge the economic success of the government". Cameron avoids desperately. "Why is it his solution to borrow more?" He quotes Moody's saying they would downgrade it further it there was less commitment to austerity. He wants Miliband to admit he wants more borrowing. "You know when he asks me questions he doesn't want to answer questions on his own record." He goes on: "I know the PM is not big on humility, But he did promise to be accountable and open. So let's try again. Hasn't he failed the big economic test he set out?"

12:05 - Cameron says he's not pretending the credit rating does not matter. He is having a hard time here. He again tries to make Miliband answer the question on borrowing. It's not heartening political debate. "I'll trade places whenever he likes," Miliband says. Does the PM really believe our loss of the triple A status has nothing to do with him. Cameron:"I'm the one arguing the credit rating does matter. He will never sit on this side of the House until he answers the questions the country wants to know."

12:07 - "When is he going to admit to being someone who racked up the deficit and can't say sorry for any of it." Miliband replies: "He can't accept the simple fact he's failed the first test he set himself. It happened on his watch. Borrowing is rising because the part-time chancellor's plan is failing. They are the last people left who think their plan is working."

12:08 - Miliband has an effective stab at Michael Gove after he barks "that's not true". Cameron again says the deficit is down by a quarter. That's only half-true by the way. "Those are the facts," Cameron says. He quotes from the New Statesman saying Miliband is unconvincing and has a credibility problem. Bit sad relying on a magazine. "He's scraping the barrel really by quoting the New Statesman," Miliband says. Enormous noise as Tories watch gleefully as the Labour leader attacks a sympathetic outlet. Cameron: "He says the News Statesman is scraping the barrel, it was the only newspaper to endorse his leadership. Daniel Day Lewis was utterly convincing as Lincoln. The right honourable gentleman is utterly convincing as Gordon Brown."

12:12 - Snap verdict: Miliband - 2 Cameron - 2. Miliband had Cameron on the ropes throughout, but he managed to get out of trouble with that New Statesman jibe. Shame he followed it up with that dreadful Lincoln joke. Other than that, Cameron was really struggling and his obsession with avoiding questions on the credit rating looked extremely unconvincing and evasive.

12:14 - We're onto backbenchers. God help us. Wayne David (Lab, barely conscious) asks what the justification is for the bedroom tax. Cameron again tries to suggest it isn't a tax (it isn't but the difference doesn't amount to much for the people facing it). I am extremely disappointed that we have so far had no Rennard trouble.

12:17 - Hazel Blears (Lab, still tiny, mad scientist hair) wants action on soaring energy bills. She seems on the border of genuine emotion. Cameron says he's already legislating. Adrian Sanders (Lib Dem, eyebrows!) says Section 75 of the NHS regulations essentially privatise the NHS. Cameron says withdrawing them would put more competition, not less - at least under these regulations it's managed.

12:19 - Nick Clegg looks dreadful. Tired, unhappy, unsettled. Charlotte Leslie (Con, teenage boy) says thousands of lives could have been saved if Labour hadn't suppressed certain reports. Cameron says he'll look at it. "Not everything in the NHS is right. We need to hold people to account." Debbie Abrahams (Lab, one to watch) says the NHS regulations go against ministerial promises to stop GP commissioners putting services out to competitive tender. "What is she worried about? What is Labour worried about? What are we frightened of allowing doctors to say 'let us have some diversity, let us have some choice'." Interesting moment. Cameron tried to defend the policy there rather than run away from it.

12:23 - Greg Mulholland (Lib Dem, minor role in Tintin) wants the Paralympic Games to mark a new moment in disability in Britain. Gripping stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. Ken Clarke looks surprisingly awake. Gemma Doyle (Lab, uses simple terms) asks another question about the bedroom tax. There's a debate on this later, Labour clearly trying to orchestrate the pressure.

12:26 - Nadine Dorries! (Con, sort of, you know her) She is saying something about a school which can't become a free school but isn't being told why. Will the Department of Education let her know why? Cameron blathers on about how wonderful free schools are. Gove nods collegiately. Ian Mearns (Labour, so Gateshead I can barely understand him) is interested in banning smoking on children's play areas. But he wants one on cars with children in. Christ preserve us. Cameron seems sympathetic. He says he'll look at each one for a public health benefit "but I think he makes a good point". Hmmm. He seems open to being convinced.

12:29 - Tom Clarke (Lab, grave) reads a letter from a constituent who needs the spare room and is being hit by the bedroom tax. The House is quiet as he reads the letter, which includes a threat of suicide. That was a good intervention. Cameron says the government always puts disabled people first. He cites the measures to help in this. Cameron is losing this debate. He seems on the back foot. He can see why Labour is pressing ahead with it. "We have to do something about the growth in the housing benefit bill," he finishes. Edward Leigh (Con, extra in the bar scene in Star Wars) shows a bit of eurosceptic leg. Ken Clarke rapidly falling asleep now, rubbing his face and gazing downward.

12:32 - John Woodcock (Lab, chortle) asks about foundation trusts. Boring. John Glen (Con, no discernible personality) says people of Eastleigh "would be well advised to vote for Maria Hutchings". Bercow slaps down Chris Bryant, weirdly, saying Sarah Palin something. Then it gets weird. Cameron jokes that if Bercow can get Bryant to shut up he's doing well. He must have messed up the phrasing because Bercow gives him a subtle telling off.

12:35 - Not entirely sure what happened with that Bercow exchange, although it seems Bryant was shouting "Sarah Palin" whenever Maria Hutchings was mentioned (the Tory Eastleigh candidate is anti-abortion, gay marriage etc). Well, that much less fun than expected.

12:37 - OK, that's it from me. I'll be back tomorrow evening though, to cover the Eastleigh result. Blogging starts at 10pm and we should have the result by 2am. Get some booze in and whack the laptop by the TV. See you then.

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