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Inside Westminster: Punch and Judy Return, as Blair Finds Reverse Gear

By London_Nick Last edited 132 months ago
Inside Westminster: Punch and Judy Return, as Blair Finds Reverse Gear
PMQs.jpg

David Cameron has barely been Leader of the Opposition for a quarter of a year, and already he seems to have abandoned his aversion to the "Punch and Judy politics" of Prime Minister's Questions. He and Blair tossed "flip flop" insults at each other today. Mr. Blair is apparently flip-flopping over his educational reforms. It seems that he has realised how embarrassing it would be if the only reason his reforms passed through the Commons was the support of the Opposition. As a result, he has made concessions to appease some 91 Labour MPs, who have called for safeguards to prevent "back-door" selection if "trust" schools - with more say over admissions and budgets - are introduced. It seems that Mr. Blair has suddenly found the reverse gear on New Labour's faltering gearbox (remember when he claimed that the reverse gear did not exist with his party?!)

Mr. Cameron, on the other hand, has flip-flopped on so many policy issues, that it is giddying. He has pretty much reversed Conservative policy on health, asylum quotas, Section 28, licensing and anti-social behaviour legislation. Mr. Blair was quick to tell the House this, and chided his opponent for agreeing with the Lib Dems on many policy issues.

Blair has dodged hard-hitting questions from Cameron over the last few PMQ sessions by simply reeling off a list of his policy u-turns. At one point, the Speaker was obliged to step in, as the relevance to the question was somewhat, well, questionable. Similarly, today, Cameron had to waste one of his questions on simply repeating his first question, just to get an answer out of the PM. Cameron was no better today, however, basically saying exactly the same thing to Blair - that he is hardly consistent with his policy himself. Punch and Judy are back with a vengance. So much for PMQs being a forum for mature debate.

In other news, Lib Dem leadership ballot papers have been dispatched. Londonist predicts that the competition is going to be extremely close between current favourite, Sir Menzies Campbell, and dark horse, Chris Huhne. With Simon Hughes all but out of the running, Huhne seems to us to be the more risky, but stronger candidate. He has little political baggage, is young enough to last more than one election, and is pledging to modernise the party. The prospect of Huhne becoming leader certainly worries the Tories, as it will most probably cause the swing that previously travelled from Lib Dem to Conservative (as a result of Cameron becoming leader) back again. Londonist feels that Campbell, whilst the "safe" option, is only a short-term option, and, with the Tories revelling in their new leadership, and the likelihood of a leadership change in the Labour Party before long, it is to the long term that the Lib Dems need to look.

Last Updated 08 February 2006