PMQs: in which Cameron forgets the Lib Dems

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 11 May 2011 in Diary
It's never a good idea to forget your coalition partner, especially when you are defending the NHS

Come on! David Cameron has to be running a betting ring about obscure British cultural references with his team at No10. Michael Winner, Benny Hill and now... Eddie the Eagle?

"I have to accept some of the recent cultural references I've made – Michael Winner and Benny Hill – ... are a little out of date," said Cameron at PMQs today.

But he couldn't resist adding that Ed Miliband “reminds me of Eddie the Eagle”, after Labour's dismal results in Scotland.

Eddie the Eagle famously (or maybe not so famously) advertised car insurance. First it was the "calm down, dear" ESure insurance ad and two weeks later, Churchill car insurance. Tenuous conspiracies are a speciality of mine.

On more substantial matters, it was the strongest performance from Ed Miliband in weeks. "You can't trust the Tories on the NHS," Miliband told the House. It's a line he's not afraid to repeat. A quick search shows it's the third time he's used it this year.

"There is only one party you can trust on the NHS and it's the one that I lead," responded David Cameron...

... It took a while for everyone to realise what he'd just said.

Oh dear. That didn't quite go to plan.

Either David Cameron now includes the Liberal Democrats within the Conservative Party, or he doesn't think the yellow birds are the party of the NHS. It was probably a 'mis-speak'.

But the PM's aides still felt the need to reassure journos that "of course" Cameron has confidence in Lib Dem health minister Paul Burstow, after PMQs had finished.

It wasn't the only Labour hit (or government misfire) in today's half-hour session.

"He breaks his promises," said Ed Miliband, pointing across the despatch box at David Cameron. "When the going gets tough, he dumps on his colleagues...

"This morning in the papers, we see the university minister being dumped on... And deputy prime minister is being dumped on every day of the week."

"Good one," mouthed Nick Clegg from the frontbenches, giving Ed Miliband a sarcastic thumbs-up. But it was a good one.

The government's weak point at the moment is its sense of collective responsibility. Lib Dems and Conservatives are enjoying the freedom to dislike each other again. They are venting after factious local elections.

David Cameron is supposed to be controlling the backbiting. Instead he is being portrayed as putting distance between himself and key ministers Andrew Lansley, David Willetts, Michael Gove and, even, Nick Clegg.

Dave 'n' Nick used to be something for the two parties to rally around. At the moment, they are a coalition by numbers. They need to bring back the romance.

Tags: Benny Hill, Coalition Government, Michael Winner, PMQs

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