David Cameron accuses PM of being “frightened of elections”

May 20, 2009 at 6:31 pm Leave a comment

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David Cameron and Nick Clegg called for an immediate general election at Prime Minister’s Questions today.

The session proved uncomfortable for Gordon Brown after he responded that to do so would cause “chaos.”

The first question, from Lib Dem Paul Rowen, concerned the part-privatisation of the Royal Mail. He called on the Prime Minister to reconsider the policy.

“We have put before the House—and our proposals are now in the other place—the problems that Royal Mail has to face up to,” Mr Brown said.

“It is losing 5 million letters a year.” This assertion was greeted with sustained laughter and barracking from the Conservatives – the Prime Minister meant that the Royal Mail was losing that amount of letters in comparison with the number that were delivered in previous years.

Mr Cameron began by asking the Prime Minister to explain a comment he made earlier in the day that a general election would cause “chaos.”

“What on earth did he mean?,” he asked.

The Prime Minister responded:

“What would cause chaos would be the election of a Conservative Government, and public spending cuts.”

Mr. Cameron shot back: “So there we have it: the first admission that the Prime Minister thinks he is going to lose!”

“I know that the Prime Minister is frightened of elections,” he continued, “but how can he possibly believe that in the fourth year of a Parliament, in one of the oldest democracies in the world, a general election could somehow bring chaos? Have another go at a better answer.”

The Prime Minister said the Commons should have “humility” after recent reports about MPs’ expenses claims.

“We have got to recognise—all of us, in all parts of the House—that mistakes have been made by Members of Parliament in all parties,” he said.

“Having had the humility to recognise that, we also have a duty to sort the problem out. The only way to sort out the system is to go ahead and sort out the system, and that is what we are proposing to do.”
Yesterday the party leaders agreed to significant reforms to the administration of MPs’ expenses system, including an independent standards authority.

Mr. Cameron accused the Prime Minister of being “hopelessly” out of touch.

“How can the answer to a crisis of democracy be an unelected Prime Minister?” he asked.

“In past months, during this economic crisis, there have been elections in India, South Africa and New Zealand. They all have new Governments with a new mandate. The United States had an election in the middle of a banking crisis. Was that chaos? Is President Obama the agent of chaos?”

The Prime Minister said the Leader of the Opposition was ignoring policy issues and that MPs need to clean up the system and then concentrate on the economy.

Mr. Cameron said a general election would be the best way to “address the issues.”

“We will not end the paralysis just by electing a new Speaker, or even by setting new rules; we must give the public their voice, and the country the chance of a fresh start. Is it not the case that the only way that can happen is through a general election?”

The Prime Minister listed the measures the government is taking to get people into work.

“I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that the country would be longer in recession, with more debt and deficit, with more businesses going under and with more unemployment, if ever we had the misfortune of him ever being in power.”

Mr. Cameron said it is “arrogance” on the part of the Prime Minister not to let the people decide.

“Can the Prime Minister not see how badly we need a fresh start?

“Two years ago he promised us a fresh start. Remember what he said outside Downing street, talking about a Government of “integrity and decency”? Well, that died with Damian McBride.

“He promised to renew trust in Parliament. Where is that promise today? He promised prudence; he promised economic stability; he promised a big house building programme. None of these things are happening. The Prime Minister calls elections “chaos”; I call them change. Why can’t we have one?”

Mr Brown said that there would be “chaos with public spending cuts under the Conservatives.”

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg called for wider reform of the political system.

“We now have a once-in-a-generation chance to change politics for good, but we will betray people’s hopes and fail to offer a really different way of doing politics if all we do is remove a medieval expenses system, without fixing everything else,” he said.

“The expenses are just the tip of the iceberg. Does the Prime Minister see that, from party funding through to Whitehall secrecy, the whole way in which we do politics must now be transformed?”

The Prime Minister told MPs that the current overnment brought in the Freedom of Information Bill.

“I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, however, that, as part of the wider debate about the relationship between Parliament and the people and the accountability of Parliament to the people, we must listen to the views of people throughout the country,” he said.

“We must consult and hear what they have to say, and, as I said yesterday, we will put forward proposals on that in the next few weeks.”

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