Prime Minister’s Questions 15th July

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Prime Minister’s Questions at The Palace of Westminster

12.00 pm on 15th July 2015

The final PMQ’s before the summer break saw David Cameron in confident form. Clearly cheered by the shambles of the Labour leadership contest, He would take on acting Labour leader Harriet Harman one final time before the recess. Harman began asking about the sustainability of the Greek deal.Cameron, although not asked about it, was keen to make clear Britain would make no contribution to the bailout and problems in the Eurozone were not, thankfully, a matter for him. Harman stated what happened would affect us, Cameron agreed but stressed again the resolution to Eurozone problems were not a matter for him.

Harman then turned to domestic issues. Surprisingly she merely glossed over the increase in unemployment, as this would have appeared fruitful territory. Her point about tax credits making people worse off was easily batted back by Cameron who had figures showing those on the lowest pay would be as much as £5000 a year better off under the proposals. He also pointed out Labour had voted against the living wage the night before, something we will here much more of I am sure.

The second point Harman made was more difficult as she discussed the support for the disabled under cuts to the ESA (Employment Support Allowance) which gave support to vulnerable people out of work. Cameron claimed the cut would apply only to those claimants that could work and nobody currently on the scheme would lose out, the change would apply to new claimants after 2017 who were assessed fit to work.

Cameron had clear grasp of the figures but Harman was doing OK too, until she strayed onto easy territory for Cameron, trade union funding changes. Cameron responded that however much Labour go round the topics, ‘It always comes back to their trade union paymasters.’ The changes are aimed to stop trade unions moving funds into general political funds given to the Labour Party which in effect mean any member of an affiliated union is paying money to the Labour Party, albeit indirectly, even if they have rejected becoming Labour affiliates themselves.

Harman tried to draw a parallel with the Tories hedge fund donors, but it does not work as they are doing so voluntarily, rich though they maybe. She stated it was an attack on working people having their say. Cameron responded by saying the current position was an attack on working people forcing them to give to a party they don’t support. Finishing on the unions allowed Cameron to talk Labour leadership, they are against welfare reform, strike law reform and in an attack on Jeremy Corbyn, he added ‘and some consider Hamas their friends.’ Finishing with a great line refering to the seeming march to the left ‘In the week we learn more about Pluto, Labour want to colonize the red planet.’

The rest of the session was pretty quiet with SNP leader Angus Robertson asking about protection for rape victims and serious Northern Ireland issues from the DUP and SDLP leaders. This was until Labour MP Michael Meacher handed Cameron the perfect finish. Meacher attacked the economy recovery, in doing so, allowed Cameron to list a lot of things the Government has achieved in the last parliament and new measures in this one. finishing with a flourish to cheers of the Tory benches and sending them home in good mood as they head off to the Summer recess.

MOON OF LIBERTY VEDICT (Out of 5) David Cameron 4 Harriet Harman 2 – Confident Cameron triumphs after Harman blots her good start by ending with weak questions about the union funding.

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Political round-up – Iran, Unions and more Jeremy Corbyn

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Obama announces Iran deal – Republicans not impressed

Barak Obama has announced what he states is an ‘historic’ deal with Iran which, if implemented, put’s an end to Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon. The Rose Garden announcement was aimed at congress and very cautious. Obama was keen to stress the consequences if Iran did not stick to strict inspection regimes within the deal. The likely Democrat nominee for the 2016 US Presidential election welcomed the deal. Her Republican rivals Jeb Bush, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have all opposed the deal stating it adds to rather than reduces the risk of tension in the middle east. Moderate Republican John McCain has also criticised the deal.and the response from Israel has been furious with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu making clear Israel do not agree and are not bound by this deal and calling it an ‘Historic Mistake’

Strike Plans

The Government have brought forward plans to impose a 50% turnout and 40% threshold to be passed before a legal strike can take place in England and Wales. On the face of it, the Government who brought in elected Police and Crime Commissioners many who were elected on turnout of less than 20%, now bringing this in looks quite astonishing. However David Cameron is confident he can shake that comparison off and the public will support this measure. The unions as you would imagine are very upset and they are laws all four of the Labour leadership candidates are agreed (for a change) they would look to repeal. It is a measure of the Conservatives current confidence that a measure as blatantly political as this can be considered.

Poll says Jeremy Corbyn in front

The New Statesman has released private polling leaked to it that suggests that the extremist candidate Jeremy Corbyn is leading the other three candidates on first preference votes in the Labour leadership contest. The trend also appears to be confirmed by a second poll seen by the Daily Telegraph.  The analysis states that many moderate supporters left the party under Ed Miliband and young members now joining, along with those affiliates through the unions, are much further to the left. This it appears may be giving Corbyn the edge. One Labour moderate Tom Harris, a former Glasgow MP, has accused the party of ‘putting it’s finger in it’s ears and loudly say I’m not listening’ when advised they need Tory voters back in order to stand a chance of winning in 2020. My main experience of the left is via Twitter, and Harris has got it spot on.

Labour leadership – All the momentum is with Corbyn (Believe it or not)

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Earlier in the Labour leadership race it appeared the man who is still the bookies favourite, Andy Burnham, despite know very left-wing leanings, had got a grasp on what Labour needed. He was going out of his way to shed his image as the left-wing candidate. All that has changed since the introduction of Jeremy Corbyn, a Marxist extremist who supports UK nuclear disarmament, wants cuts in defence spending, opposes austerity and all welfare cuts and has called for a North Korean style ‘Planned economy.’ Unless you are of an incredibly left-wing disposition, he may be the most dangerous leadership candidate to ever run for the leadership of a major political party in Britain.

This has not deterred the Labour movement. Every union so far declared is backing Corbyn, Corbyn is almost level with Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper in constituency associations backing him, while moderate Liz Kendall trails a long way behind. Corbyn just being there has moved the debate onto territory that a credible party should not even be discussing. Burnham is in panic that Corbyn could actually win. He has come out against the benefit cap and reduction of tax credits to two children only announced by Chancellor George Osbourne in the budget. This puts him at odds with acting leader Harriett Harman who has supported these measures and has accused Burnham of learning nothing from the election. Yvette Cooper has also now said she agrees with Burnham as well. Only Kendall takes the opposite view.

Burnham has also called a stir today by saying he will refuse to do interviews with The Sun newspaper if he wins. Burnham was heavily involved in the exposure of the Hillsborough disaster scandal where 96 Liverpool fans were killed and the Sun falsely accused the fans of causing it. The city of Liverpool boycotts The Sun as a result even to this day. For them that is fine, for Burnham it is a problem as The Sun is still the biggest read newspaper in the country and it is widely accepted Sun readers need to be won back if Labour are to challenge for power again. A none co-operation strategy from Burnham will not help him do that. This was always going to be an issue, upset those in Liverpool he worked with, or make the call that could damage the Labour Party in the long run.

With increasing union affiliates signing up to vote in the contest, this will favour Jeremy Corbyn. Can Corbyn pull off the upset? His opponents appear to think so. For me Kendall is the only credible Labour candidate, it is also clear she will not win. Cooper and Burnham would tack left and onto Ed Miliband territory in the end that failed, Corbyn is just dangerous, but almost certainly could not win a General Election. Harman and Kendall are showing Labour the door towards a brighter future and a new start, all signs are however, Labour are desperate to march the other way.