Immigration was a key part of this week’s PMQs with Labour claiming that the Conservatives have failed to meet targets set out in their manifesto to cut net migration. Mr Cameron blamed this on migration from within the European Union, and the need for reform of the benefits system.
Miliband was more successful at sustaining attacks on the Prime Minister this week, claiming that Mr Cameron’s immigration promises made Nick Clegg’s pledge on tuition fees “look like the model of integrity”, suggesting this would make voters distrustful.
Despite this, Mr Cameron attempted to turn things around by using the Conservative manifesto for the last election, more specifically at benefits associated with pensioners and cancer treatment. Following this was a whole other range of commitments the Prime Minister argued had been achieved since 2010.
Omitting immigration from this list was not the best idea and Miliband continued to press the issue. Mr Cameron said that plans to address increased migration from within the EU were being implemented.
Again, the Prime Minister took recourse to other manifesto promises, namely cutting wasteful spending.
Miliband challenged the Prime Minister about whether he would attend the head-to-head debate proposed by the broadcasters. Mr Cameron seemed evasive as he repeated the well-rehearsed line of Labour not being able to talk about the economy, but when asked again he suggested that a seven-way debate was the only acceptable format, and that the two leaders were having a debate as they spoke.
Another key point in the debate came from Brent North’s MP Barry Gardiner who raised concerns about cancer targets being missed; affecting 100,000 patients. Mr Cameron gave a detailed answer, highlighting the importance of earlier diagnosis by GPs and made assurances about the cancer drugs fund.
The Prime Minister was also criticised for being out of touch from those with lower incomes. Mr Cameron defended his record on apprenticeships and jobs, claiming that he thought Labour “would welcome that”.
Tax avoidance briefly emerged throughout the debate, although the issue was quickly closed. It seems that this has fallen off the agenda.
Liberal Democrat MP David Ward questioned whether behaviour displayed by Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband at PMQs really benefitted the image of the House of Commons. The Prime Minister said there were ways it could be improved, but that it served an important function.
Compared to recent debates, Labour appeared more certain this week and applied more sustained pressure on the Prime Minister. Immigration is a particularly important issue for the Conservatives, and attacks on this policy were well-directed. Although Mr Cameron made a reasonable attempt to defend his record, he came across as quite evasive, meaning Labour seemed to emerge as the stronger party.