Ed Miliband urged to use good 'cheer lines'

  • Published

Ed Miliband should use memorable "cheer lines" at prime minister's questions to ensure coverage on TV news bulletins, leaked advice to Labour's leader says.

A memo to Mr Miliband on what to do at the weekly session, seen by The Times, urges him to ask simple questions to make PM David Cameron look "evasive".

It also stresses the importance of body language and enjoying the encounter.

Mr Cameron seized on it at Wednesday's session, saying his rival had "a plan for PMQs but no plan for the economy".

Mr Miliband faced the prime minister across the despatch box for the third time on Wednesday in an exchange dominated by the government's proposed reforms to housing benefit.

Earlier, The Times published details of a three-page briefing given to the leader of the opposition by two close aides on how to perform at the high-profile encounter.

'Mocking humour'

It encouraged Mr Miliband to deploy snappy phrases, to ensure coverage on TV news bulletins for the rest of the day.

"It is important to have a cheer line that goes down well in the chamber and can be clipped easily by the broadcasters. Mocking humour is particularly useful here, especially if it strikes a chord with Tory backbenchers to silence them."

Due to the often noisy atmosphere in the Commons, the memo suggested it was hard for an opposition leader to develop a line of argument in their six allotted questions and it was best to be concise and specific.

It continues: "The big prize is usually to provoke the PM into appearing evasive by repeatedly failing to answer a simple question, often one that requires a simple yes or no."

Mr Miliband appeared to follow this advice on Wednesday, pressing the prime minister on whether he was going to drop any of the coalition's planned reforms to housing benefit, whether the plans were fair, and how many families in London would be affected.

'Read all about it'

Among other tips for Mr Miliband, according to the memo, is to use pro-active body language.

"It is important to get to your feet looking as it you are seizing on something new," it added. "If you 'umm' or look like you are just moving to the next part of your script, they will think he wrong-footed you in his answer".

The memo also suggested Mr Miliband should seek to exploit what it suggested were the PM's weakness, including a tendency to "answer in generalities" and to quickly resort to "practised anger".

Mr Cameron, who took part in his first PMQs in 2005, quoted the memo back to his opposite number at the end of Wednesday's prime minister's questions, saying "everyone had had a chance to read about it".

He told him: "He has got a plan for PMQs but he has got no plan for the economy, no plan for the debt and no plan for the mess they [Labour] made."

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said it was no surprise the prime minister had raised the subject, saying it would have been "irresistible" for him.