“On the substance of the issue, there is no disagreement between us.” Friendly Dave reached out with imploring eyes to Ed Miliband across the House during PMQs today, beseeching co-operation in the guise of consensus on the public parliamentary inquiry he proposes to investigate the recent sordid skulduggery of our bankers.
The prime minister tried to sustain this language of consensus throughout his grilling from Miliband, who even earnestly joined in on occasion – “there is a way forward we could agree upon,” he said, proposing his two-part plan for a probe into banking. One judge-led inquiry to be completed by Christmas on Libor, and another wider inquiry into that nebulous word ministers keep spitting over this issue – the “culture” of the city.
Grimacing with friendliness, Cameron continued to preach teamwork on the banking inquiry, highlighting the opposition will have the opportunity to debate and vote on a motion on this tomorrow, agreeing that he would accept the result, and urging Ed to reciprocate – “if the government motion is carried, I would urge him to say he will co-operate.”
But Ed didn’t want to make friends. He batted away his opponent’s softly-softly rhetoric, and screamed to the Commons that Cameron just doesn’t “get it” giving the fair example of when “this time last year” Cameron refused a judge-led inquiry into press standards, only to change his mind.
He even offered Cameron the tempting prospect of a u-turn to implement the “full Vickers recommendations".
Dave didn’t look convinced. In fact, he gradually gave up on his amicable negotiation face after Miliband’s repeated rejection of a public parliamentary inquiry – “I’m prepared to accept. Why isn’t he?” he said, crestfallen.
Embittered by rejection, he then inevitably fell to blaming the Labour government for Britain’s banking conditions, calling them afraid to have their “dirty washing done in public,” although it was clear he hadn’t meant to enter the debate on this aggressive political platform, and it took him a while to get there.
Not as long as it took to reach the EU referendum question though, put to the PM 20 minutes in by Labour MP Ian Lucas who struggled with a joke about Cameron being “indecisive” or “just not sure.” The prime minister swiftly brushed it aside, and did not discuss it further.
Consensus back to cranky coercion in under half an hour.