Cameron skims over scam in a blizzard of statistics

David Cameron Gestures

A Tory MP on Wednesday asked David Cameron about the millions of British people who are the victims of scams every year.

Many were elderly and vulnerable, said Caroline Nokes. She wanted legislation to stop these rackets, she said during prime minister's questions on Wednesday.

Earlier, the Commons had heard about one of the worst scams – a get-back-to-work scheme that actually helped just two out of every 100 people who used it. Imagine the rage you would feel when you realised you had been swindled! And your fury when you knew there was no hope of getting compensation – because the whole cunning scheme was created by the government.

The weekly exchange between Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband again developed into two quite unrelated conversations going on at the same time.

"Does the prime minister recognise that Manchester City are a better team than Chelsea, yes or no?"

"Absolutely not! And the notion that turkey is preferable to goose for a family Christmas dinner is self-evidently absurd."

"Once again, he has failed to answer my question. Manchester City or Chelsea?"

"It is no good the Rt Hon member making these ridiculous points. Goose is delicious and also provides a quantity of fat which can be used to make perfect roast potatoes for months to come!"

Miliband wanted to talk about the failed Work Programme wheeze, which had been billed as "the biggest and boldest programme since the great depression". In fact, said Miliband, it was such a disaster you stood a better chance of getting a job if you weren't in the programme than if you were – "a historic first".

Cameron failed to deny this, but produced a blizzard of statistics about Labour's own schemes. But what he really wanted to do was deploy his shiny new anti-Labour slogan: "They are the something-for-nothing party." So he kept trying to turn from jobs to the lazy swine who don't work but just rake in the taxpayers' money. Or as Jake Berry (Con, Rossendale) asked, in what sounded like a planted question, how about hardworking people who earn just £25,000 a year and who "leave home before it is light and return from work when it is dark?" I know it can be a bit grim up north, but presumably even these people manage to see some daylight, in summer at least.

Cameron had his reply all ready: some people were on £100,000 housing benefits and Labour had not tackled the problem because "they believe in something for nothing". Bingo!

Miliband was less successful quoting reports that Tuesday's cabinet meeting was angry and rancorous, with Iain Duncan Smith apparently assailing George Osborne for not producing growth, and Eric Pickles being lambasted for, well, presumably just for being Eric Pickles. Isn't that enough?

"They are fighting like ferrets in a sack," Miliband said, letting Cameron reply, that under Labour, the prime minister and the chancellor could not bear to be in the same room. A sack would not cover it.

Meanwhile, his face had gone brick red, then paled just as suddenly. He really must have been rattled again.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Simon Hoggart, for The Guardian on Wednesday 28th November 2012 19.33 Europe/London

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