Sketch: Edward tells porky about railways in dull PMQs

Jack Blackburn 2.29pm

With Edward very much on the back foot, he needed to be able to claim something from the first PMQs of 2012. Given that, his tactics were baffling, even if it is fair to say that his performance skills showed signs of improvement.

It was notable that Edward had calmed down a bit and was less irritating than is habitual. He was more measured, less whiney, though he still had a righteous earnestness about himself that remains deeply irritating. Still, an improvement is an improvement.

The choice of questions was bizarre. The last two were about Scotland, on which he agrees with the Prime Minister, but the first four were about train fares. Now, I have spent a lot of time on trains. I think that the rise of fares is utterly extortionate. I would love to see it discussed more at the national level.

However, we didn’t get a discussion, so much as a squabble. Edward stood up and demanded to know why some fares had risen by almost 11 per cent. The Prime Minister said, clipped and curt, it was because the Labour government had given train companies the power to do so.

The remainder of the exchange on this topic can be neatly summarised thus:

Edward: No, we didn’t.

Dave: Yes, you did.

Edward: No, we didn’t.

Dave: Yes, you did.

Edward: No, we didn’t.

Dave: Yes, you did.

As you can imagine this was thrilling stuff. Edward didn’t make much of a point other than that excessive fares are bad and Dave didn’t say much more than it’s all Labour’s fault, which presumably he now says whenever he is in doubt, though, to be fair, in this instance, the House of Commons Library shows that he is correct. Furthermore, in 2009 the Labour government announced a cap in fares for 2009, not from 2009 (h/t Joe Murphy, Evening Standard).

It was a dreadfully dull PMQs, and Edward came out of the exchanges with nothing other than an agreement with the Prime Minister about Scotland. Hardly earth shattering.

While I applaud Mr Miliband for taking two of his questions out to discuss this important issue, thereby sacrificing two further opportunities to make political capital, I’m not sure that his political opponents within his own party will see it like that. He lives to fight another day, yet his tricky start to the year continues.

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