Cameron fights off Miliband's OBR attack

Cameron came out tops today, according to most commentators
Cameron came out tops today, according to most commentators

By Ian Dunt

David Cameron flew back from Switzerland today to fight off an attack from Ed Miliband on the government's economic policies.

The prime minister was almost unilaterally considered the winner in the debate, but he later signalled a significant U-turn over school sports, leadsing to renewed questions over the competance of education secretary Michael Gove.

The Labour leader used this week's PMQs to highlight Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) figures suggesting the British economy would experience its most sluggish growth from recession for 45 years.

The prime minister said the leader of the opposition was "determined to talk the economy down" - a similar charge to that Gordon Brown employed against Mr Cameron at the start of the year.

Mr Miliband repeatedly questioned Mr Cameron on the effects his policies would have unemployment, following the 'jobless recovery' mantra that Labour has utilised this week.

Mr Cameron replied by reminding Mr Miliband that unemployment stood at eight per cent when he took over the government and that it would be down to six per cent by the end of the parliament.

"Have you ever heard a more complacent answer to a question?" Mr Miliband asked. He interrogated Mr Cameron on the effect the VAT cut would have on jobs and growth.

Cameron reminded the Labour leader that a VAT rise was backed by Alistair Darling and insisted that if he had taken Mr Miliband's advice the UK would be linked with Portugal and Ireland.

"We'd be sitting around discussing how we're going to bail out Britain," Mr Cameron said.

Mr Miliband responded: "You can only rewrite history for so long."

That reply prompted laughter and abuse from the Tory benches, who pointed at Mr Miliband to suggest that he was guilty of precisely that, having U-turned on many of Labour's previous policies, such as Iraq and civil liberties.

Mr Miliband called on the prime minister to admit that it would be the slowest recovery in 45 years again, again citing the OBR report from earlier this week.

"He's been doing the job for the last three months. People are going to ask, when's he going to start?" Mr Cameron replied.

The Labour leader then attacked the prime minister with information from the Wikileaks releases, suggesting Mr Cameron, George Osborne and William Hague were children of Thatcher.

"He's not waving, he's drowning," Mr Cameron replied.

"I'd rather be a child of Thatcher than a son of Brown."

That last comment, a reference to Mr Miliband's position as a Brownite during Labour's time in power, prompted huge laughs from the Tory benches, with many MPs waving their order papers in the air. Even Speaker John Bercow was forced to suppress a smile.

Later, Mr Cameron responded to a question from former sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe on cuts to school sport funding by suggesting the government was "looking carefully at the debate" - opening the door to a potential U-turn.

Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham welcomed the "a huge change in tone".

Any change would constitute a further humiliation for Mr Gove, who has won a reputation as the most problematic minister with a string of mistakes since the election.

Mr Cameron will fly back to Switzerland later to continue with England's bid to host the World Cup. Nick Clegg is currently in Kazakhstan attending a trade and investment summit.


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