This was a good PMQs for Andrew Mitchell (Con, Sutton Coldfield), who stood observing the proceedings from the far end of the Chamber. In response to a question from Keith Vaz (Lab, Leicester East), who chairs the home affairs select committee, David Cameron agreed “one hundred per cent” that Mitchell “is owed an apology” by the police: “The conduct of these officers is not acceptable.”
David Davis (Con, Haltemprice and Howden) was among the MPs who strolled over to exchange friendly words with Mitchell. He is seen at Westminster as a vindicated man.
For the rest of the session, we saw Cameron in election mode. He referred at least half a dozen times to tax cuts. His line is that there have already been tax cuts for the low-paid, but tax cuts can only continue if you cut spending, which Labour will not do. Nineteen months before the next general election, the unmistakeable message is to vote Tory for tax cuts. The Liberal Democrats were left out of it, but provoked laughter by bridling when Dominic Raab (Con, Esher and Walton) suggested it is the Tories who deserve the credit for lifting two million people out of income tax.
Cameron said you should also vote Tory for jobs. The Prime Minister revelled in the latest employment statistics, which show a continuing rise in the number of jobs.
The sight of this prosperous and patrician figure boasting about how much the Government has done for the poor is galling in the extreme for Labour MPs. They retaliated with a spot of class war. Stephen Hepburn (Lab, Jarrow) attacked “tax cuts for millionaires” brought in by a Government of “privileged, privately educated millionaires”.
Dennis Skinner (Lab, Bolsover) held the House with a tale of a constituent who was stripped of his benefit by Atos, which judged him fit to work, but who then lost his sight, his hearing and, last week, his life to cancer. All those of us who admire the Beast of Bolsover as a parliamentarian were delighted to hear him roar. But Cameron managed to be properly respectful about the sad individual case, while also insisting that it is “right to carry out proper assessments” of whether people are fit to work.
Ed Miliband said there had been “a welcome fall in unemployment” – an admission which produced a Tory cheer – before insisting there is “a cost of living crisis” to which the energy companies are contributing.
Cameron accused Miliband of not wanting to talk about the economy, while Miliband accused Cameron of not wanting to talk about energy prices. The Labour leader then accused the Prime Minister of going in five short years “from hug a husky to gas a badger”.
The phrase was enjoyable, but also expressed disgust with the Prime Minister’s style. Labour finds it almost impossible to believe that a man of this type can ever win an election victory.