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Miliband perfunctory on Libya, happier on Surestart at PMQs

by Paul Goodman

There's usually nothing for leaders of the opposition in raising foreign affairs at Prime Minister's Questions.  They're nearly always looking for ways of raising matters that reverberate with most voters - which affairs overseas don't tend to - and scoring a win.

However, there are times when not raising foreign affairs would look odd.  Today was one of them.  So Miliband tried three questions on Libya and Afghanistan, yoking mixed Government signals over a no-fly zone to this morning's story of cuts in army manpower.

After which he sat down again, waited a bit, and tried three further questions on more promising and familiar terrority - the fate of local SureStart Centres.  The Opposition leader seems to be more comfortable with trying three questions, pausing, and then trying three more than rattling through all six.

There's little new to report.  Miliband has his plan and sticks to it.  David Cameron looks the more relaxed of the two.  The way they each go at it was illustrated by an exchange in the second set of questions about loyalty.

Miliband had a good pre-scripted line about the Prime Minister dropping his Cabinet colleagues in it during PMQs.  (He referred in particular to Caroline Spelman and the planned forest sell-off.)  Cameron, picking up a heckle from his own benches, had a no less good - and unscripted - jibe in return about brotherly love.

I thought that the Opposition Leader didn't try very hard with his first set of three, and seemed simply to be going through the motions.  Some good questions from the Conservative backbenches today - Roger Gale was quite right to raise the horrible murder of Pakistan's only Christian Cabinet Minister.

Oh, and Cameron stood waiting at the despatch box - for rather a long time, I thought - for the Speaker to calm the Labour benches.  No love lost there, I'd say.


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