Today’s session of PMQs was unexpectedly boring. Amid another big banking scandal, with the future of the City at stake, somehow David Cameron and Ed Miliband got bogged down in a tedious discussion of what sort of inquiry there should be into what went on.
The Prime Minister is pursuing a parliamentary inquiry, which he wants to be led by Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the Treasury Select Committee. Miliband wants a full Leveson-style judge-led inquiry.
Miliband obviously thinks he is onto something here, and that by getting ahead of the PM he can do what he did last year, when it looked like he had forced Cameron to set up the Leveson inquiry. And he said as much today:
We are in exactly the same position as a year ago. He said he didn’t want a judge-led inquiry and then he changed his mind.
Miliband had a surprise card up his sleeve: a compromise solution that would see a two-part judge-led inquiry, with the first part reporting on the Libor scandal by the end of the year, followed by a longer probe into practices in the City. Just like Leveson, in fact.
For several questions, Miliband and Cameron traded blows on whose proposal for an inquiry would end up being tougher on the City. And by doing so, both completely missed the moment to capture either the public imagination or mood, although Cameron did have a go with one stinging line, accusing the banks of “spivvy and probably illegal activity”.
It fell to Sir Peter Tapsell, the father of the House, to ask a really good question. What would be the response, he asked, if Bob Diamond kept his pay packet? The PM responded that it would be “completely wrong” and “inexplicable”.
Meanwhile Miliband could only look on, chuntering about two-part this and judge-led that.