It’s Flashman in full arrogant swagger at #PMQs.
For explanation, let’s start with George Eaton for The Staggers:
The need to intervene in markets and to set the rules of the game is becoming the defining theme of Ed Miliband’s leadership. Both of his interventions at today’s PMQs (he split his questions), on rental policy and on Pfizer’s bid for AstraZeneca, reflected his belief in the power of government to shape the economy in the public interest.
Miliband started by repeating the trick that worked so well for him over his energy price freeze: quoting an outlandish Tory attack on one of his policies in an attempt to portray David Cameron as the real ideologue in this debate: “How long will it take the prime minister to make the inevitable journey from saying they [his housing proposals] are ‘Venezuelan-style rent controls’ to saying they are ‘a good idea’?”
Cameron weakened his hand from the start by confessing that he had not had a chance to study the plans, before going on to quote a series of Labour criticisms of “rent controls” (a policy distinct from Miliband’s “predictable rents”). But in so doing, he fell into the Labour leader’s trap by positioning himself as the defender of a failing market. Miliband responded with a line ready-made for TV: “Why has the Conservative Party given up on the millions of people who are Generation Rent?” In a unfailing sign of weakness, Cameron responded with a stock attack on Unite and Len McCluskey (who support rent controls), declaring of Labour: “Their policies are for rent, their candidates are for lent [sic], and their leaders are for rent.”
Yes, I heard that on BBC2’s Daily Politics. Except for that final clause. Watch that on iPlayer, and you may detect, at that moment, a significant confab between his compadre and the Chief Clerk. So let’s check with Hansard:
The problem with rent controls is their policies are for rent, their candidates are for lent and their leader is for rent. That is the problem.
Ah ha! thought so! Dave, the problem may be yours.
First there’s the slip: lent/rent. A small thing, perhaps, but a sure sign you feel under pressure.
Then their leader is for rent. It is no wonder that George Eaton misheard, or chose to mishear. It must come as close as damning-is-to-swearing to being unparliamentary:
Unparliamentary language breaks the rules of politeness in the House of Commons Chamber. Part of the Speaker’s role is to ensure that MPs do not use insulting or rude language and do not accuse each other of lying, being drunk or misrepresenting each other’s words. Words to which objection has been taken by the Speaker over the years include blackguard, coward, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, rat, swine, stoolpigeon and traitor. The Speaker will direct an MP who has used unparliamentary language to withdraw it. Refusal to withdraw a comment might lead to an MP being disciplined. The Speaker could ‘name’ the Member. MPs sometimes use considerable ingenuity to get around the rules; for example Winston Churchill famously used the phrase “terminological inexactitude” to mean “lie”.
Patrick Mercer resigned from Parliament, prompting the Newark by-election because he had been bought. Mercer had been caught in a sting, asking questions paid for by a (fake) lobbying firm
Yet, here is Cameron accusing Miliband of being venal. Since 1947, the Commons has had a firm rule forbidding:
lobbying for reward or consideration:
“It is inconsistent with the dignity of the House, with the duty of a Member to his constituents, and with the maintenance of the privilege of freedom of speech, for any Member of this House to enter into any contractual agreement with an outside body, controlling or limiting the Member’s complete independence and freedom of action in Parliament or stipulating that he shall act in any way as the representative of such outside body in regard to any matters to be transacted in Parliament; the duty of a Member being to his constituents and to the country as a whole, rather than to any particular section thereof: and that in particular no Members of the House shall, in consideration of any remuneration, fee, payment, or reward or benefit in kind, direct or indirect, which the Member or any member of his or her family has received is receiving or expects to receive—
(i) Advocate or initiate any cause or matter on behalf of any outside body or individual, or
(ii) urge any other Member of either House of Parliament, including Ministers, to do so,
by means of any speech, Question, Motion, introduction of a Bill or Amendment to a Motion or a Bill or any approach, whether oral or in writing, to Ministers or servants of the Crown.”
It surely is time Cameron was called to order.
The trouble is the present régime, and its foot-soldiery (in the House, in the Press) has made the Speaker of the House a constant target for intimidation.
The kind of thing the Brown Shirts were told was acceptable.