Labour leader chides PM over ‘secret’ stock-taking which forgets triple-dip recession and £212bn extra borrowing
David Cameron said that the audit of the government’s promises, published on Wednesday afternoon, would be “full, frank and completely unvarnished!” Oh, no, we thought – not more bloody Ronseal. Or rather, since it’s unvarnished, an absence of Ronseal – Nonseal, or Gone-seal.
When the audit came it certainly lacked a certain shine. It was a list of things that had been promised and achieved, plus achievements to be achieved at an unknown date.
What it should have said on the tin was something like: “May, at some time in the future, give your furniture a glossy finish, but it will be patchy and take ages to dry.”
A lot of the pledges are still, to put it politely, works in progress. The government put me in mind of a disaffected teenager, whose mum says: “On Monday, you promised to tidy your room after tea. On Tuesday you said you’d do it after breakfast. Now you say you’ll do it before lunch. When on Earth are you going to do it?”
Teenager: “After I get back from football.”
Mum: “Oh, all right.”
There is no mention of the £212bn in extra borrowing, the possible triple-dip recession or the broken promises on the NHS. Ed Miliband decided to pretend the thing wasn’t being published at all. He called it “the secret audit”.
David Cameron twitched with excitement and annoyance. Miliband told him to “calm down”, a loaded phrase at question time since Cameron told a Labour woman to “calm down, dear”.
He asked the Labour leader if that was the best barb he could come up with. “He has had a week sitting in the Canary Islands with nothing else to think of!”
Gosh, I thought, that would have been a terrible holiday if he was thinking about prime minister’s questions the whole time instead of choosing which little umbrella to stick in his drink.
Miliband kept banging on about the secret audit, though by the afternoon it was to be roughly as secret as one of those Golf Sale leaflets blokes hand you in the street.
Things got nastier, as they usually do. Cameron said he had identified one area of public spending – the £5m of public money that goes to the Labour party: “We get nothing from it!”
And Miliband called him a PR man who could not even do a relaunch. “The nasty party is back!”
Meanwhile Ed Balls sat on the bench, huffing and grumping and puffing like a grampus with wind. Inspired perhaps by this, the prime minister declared that Miliband had a shadow chancellor “he will not back, but cannot sack!”
But the oddest moment came when he was asked about plans to repeal the ban on fox-hunting. He replied defensively: “I have never broken the law, and the only little red pests I pursue these days are in this House.”
Never broken the law? We’ve all broken the law, whether it’s speeding, nicking an office notepad or even having a puff of pot at university. I suppose he meant that, since the law changed, no foxes were harmed in any hunt he joined. As for the joke, if it’s the best he could come up with in three weeks, he could use a trip to the Canaries himself.