Having brought the Labour Party crashing to the ground, David Cameron lost no time in making sure it stays there. The Prime Minister showed all the sensitivity of Bomber Harris, and considerably greater accuracy, as he pulverised any attempt by the official Opposition to get airborne again.
Labour were dismissed, in what seemed an unnecessarily loud voice, as “enemies of aspiration”. How often they are going to hear that attack over the next five years. Cameron made it first during his exchanges with Labour’s interim leader, Harriet Harman, and employed variants of it several times in what followed.
Cyril Connolly once wrote a brilliant book called Enemies of Promise, which identified the reasons why writers fail to produce their best work. Perhaps a gifted young Conservative could write Enemies of Aspiration, which identifies the reasons why Labour will always let down the workers.
Harman wished to know whether the housing association properties which are acquired by their tenants under the Government’s right-to-buy scheme will be replaced on a one-for-one basis. It is a reasonable question, and one hopes that during the next general election campaign, Conservative candidates will be able to answer it with a resounding “Yes”.
Nothing could demonstrate more clearly than the building of, say, 300,000 new houses a year, the target achieved after the victory of 1951, that the Tories are the true friends of aspiration. That amazing achievement laid the foundation for the election victories which followed in 1955 and 1959.
Angus Robertson made his debut at PMQs as the SNP’s leader at Westminster. Rather than mount some cheap, partisan attack, he used the language of moral seriousness to ask about refugees in the Mediterranean. After referring to the plight of people fleeing the Nazis in the late 1930s, he said the UK has “an appalling record on the resettlement of Syrian refugees”.
Cameron treated Robertson with respect, but said Britain “should be proud” of its record in giving refuge to victims of persecution. The Prime Minister contended that most of the people now trying to cross the Mediterranean are not asylum seekers, but have been “tricked and fooled by criminal gangs”.
The Prime Minister could not resist referring with pleasure to the disappearance from the Chamber of Ed Balls, who heckled him with such vigour throughout the last Parliament.
And Cameron also welcomed a new Labour MP, Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood), who asked him when the UK will regain its triple-A credit rating. Cameron congratulated her on the excellence of her question, and urged her in his loudest and most determined voice to “Go for it” and stand for the leadership of the Labour Party. Here is a man so ruthless he will use any stick, or in this case any Cat, to beat the candidates for that office.
Immediately after PMQs, the Speaker, John Bercow, led a number of exceptionally moving speeches in memory of Charles Kennedy. The House remained full, and was silent. In the midst of political life, we are in death. Donald Kennedy, Charles’s ten-year-old son, watched these tributes from the gallery.