This week’s PMQs continued with a recent theme of tax avoidance, in light of claims that have emerged about the use of Swiss bank accounts at HSBC and the role of political donors.
Compared to recent debates, Ed Miliband appeared to take more of a backseat role in allowing other Labour MPs to mount the pressure on the issue of tax avoidance by repeating the same question, a tactic reminiscent of the previous debate, where Miliband asked a specific question relating to hedge funds.
Even then, Mr Cameron seemed to avoid directly answering the question posed, instead swiftly moving to other areas of policy such as unemployment and economic growth – again claiming that Labour ‘could not talk about it’. This lack of response appeared to demonstrate an avoidance strategy.
Cameron kept referring to increases in private sector employment, citing figures of two million supported by anecdotes from individual Conservative MPs. These figures were not challenged, despite a question asked before PMQs relating to Government figures being inaccurate. It seems that Cameron’s core election messages will be safety and security, backed up by claims such as these.
Despite personal criticism from Mr Cameron about the role of trade unions in securing Miliband’s leadership, the Labour leader seemed unfazed – equally describing Mr Cameron as a ‘dodgy Prime Minister surrounded by dodgy donors’.
In a similar fashion to last week, both Government and Opposition continued to name and shame individual donors embroiled in tax avoidance claims, and after a while this seemed to become very pointless, as both sides were left somewhat discredited.
Criticism of management in the Welsh NHS was brought back onto the agenda, after Labour MP Glyn Davies criticised the Government for excessive GP waiting times. Cameron urged the NHS in Wales to reverse cuts it had made to improve access to GPs, which seemed to be an implicit attack on the Labour-run authority.
Concerns surrounding party finance and tax avoidance are going to be key in election campaigns for both parties. The Conservatives seem to have settled on their campaign messages and are using every opportunity to push these, while Labour needs to do more to define their own, rather than highlighting specific issues with particular policies.