Cameron fights off Harman's 'vanity photo' attack

Harman failed to land a blow at PMQs today
Harman failed to land a blow at PMQs today

By Ian Dunt

David Cameron easily batted away attacks from Harriet Harman today during strange and bad-tempered PMQs session.

With Ed Miliband still on paternity leave, the deputy Labour leader faced the prime minister across the dispatch box - a role she also adopted during the Labour leadership race.

Ms Harman tried to make some political capital out of Mr Cameron's U-turn on hiring a 'vanity' photography team on the public payroll but found herself faced with full-throated attack from the prime minister.

PMQs as-it-happened

"Even the jokes are lame this week, I have to say," he laughed, before reeling off examples of Labour's questionable employment record in government.

The prime minister attacked the opposition benches for the number of special advisers labour ministers employed and the role of Damian McBride in 'smeargate'.

"We won't be employing Alistair Campbell to sex up dossiers to make the case for war," Mr Cameron ended.

PMQs sketch: Backbenches or football terraces?

As he did so, a football-style chant of "Coul-son, Coul-son" came from the Labour benches, as Speaker John Bercow struggled to maintain control of the chamber.

The reference to the Downing Street director of communications - who may face prosecution over the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World if the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decides to act on evidence handed to it by the Metropolitan police - resulted in an atmosphere more akin to a football terrace than a debating chamber.

Mr Bercow was then forced to stop the prime minister from talking, as his attack on Labour went on too long. The Speaker took a tough line with MPs as the session went on, as he sought to reassert his control.

The main thrust of Ms Harman's questions concentrated on frontline police numbers as a result of cuts.

The deputy Labour leader called on Mr Cameron to scrap plans to introduce locally elected police chiefs so he could save money and retain frontline officers.

"No, I won't," Mr Cameron answered.

"I want there to be police commissioners so that when they do a good job they get re-elected. Democracies are a good thing, we all think in here."

Mr Cameron also faced questions on the flooding in Cornwall, wheelchair provision and midwife numbers during the session.


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