By Matthew Barrett
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After recent troubles with issues like Leveson and the local elections, the Prime Minister was bound to have a difficult PMQs. However, the Prime Minister did have some positive unemployment figures to hit back with. The first question came from Tory backbencher Paul Maynard, which was on those unemployment figures. The Prime Minister did welcome them, but cautioned against complacency, saying there are too many people in part time employment, and too many in long term unemployment.
Ed Miliband started his line of questioning on European growth, asking what discussions the Prime Minister has had with newly elected French President Hollande. The Prime Minister played a straight bat, and simply outlined his idea of how Europe should get growing again. Ed Miliband responded by saying Cameron could simply text him a message ending with "LOL". Cameron responded by saying that at least he can use a mobile phone, rather than throw it at people – a reference to Gordon Brown. "I can still see the dents", Cameron said. Cameron noted that Hollande does not support higher spending or borrowing. This showed he did not back Labour, Cameron said. Cameron hailed Britain's interest rates as evidence the Coalition is doing the right thing.
Ed Miliband picked up on William Hague's comments about businesses working hard. Miliband moved on to police jobs, asking how many policemen had lost their jobs since the election. Cameron replied that Miliband couldn't wait to move on from the economy. Cameron reeled off a list of statistics about work programmes, and apprenticeships, and so on. Cameron then answered the question, saying there are actually more policemen on the frontline, and, in any case, Labour's police cuts would be deeper, because they wouldn't have the courage to reform pensions, etc.
Ed Miliband read statistics about fewer policemen and fewer 999 responders. When Tory backbenchers jeered, Miliband protested: "they were elected on a pledge to increase police! No wonder they're losing elections". The Prime Minister responded: "Oh dear, he's having a bad day". Cameron reiterated that Labour wouldn't have the courage to reform pensions and pay, and would have to cut more police jobs as a result. "Absolutely no police ideas at all", Cameron concluded.
Miliband then tried to strike a low blow against Cameron, saying part of Cameron's Leveson training should include anger management – simply because Cameron raised his voice a little while reading out statistics; which can be a trait of his. Miliband moved on to the NHS, bringing up the Coalition's promise not to proceed with any top-down re-organisations. Cameron listed statistics about waiting times, staff numbers, etc. "Back to the bunker with that answer, Mr Speaker", Miliband responded. Miliband quoted his own contradictory list of statistics. "I know he doesn't like being reminded of his own quote, but that's because he broke his promise", said Miliband. Miliband then argued the problem with the Coalition is that they cut taxes for millionaires, and services for ordinary people. The Prime Minister protested that council tax freezes and taking the low-paid out of tax were examples of the Coalition being on the side of average people.
On backbench questions, an interesting moment came when Sir Peter Tapsell, the Father of the House, asked whether Angela Merkel should have used the "big bazooka" the Prime Minister suggested last year, to help solve the Eurozone crisis. Cameron said he couldn't give a direct answer, but said the Eurozone had some tough decisions to make, or it could face a choice between a "make up or a potential break up". This may be the first time Cameron has acknowledged the very real chance of a Eurozone breakup.