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Would Labour use the veto?

John Rentoul

ebem 300x223 Would Labour use the veto?I see that Hansard missed the return of Ed Miliband’s “crimson tide” line, with which he tries to annoy David Cameron, but its writers got down the rest of the exchange from this afternoon’s Prime Minister’s Questions:

Edward Miliband: It is good to see—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. Government Back Benchers, including Ministers, are apparently approaching maturity. They must tackle their behavioural problems before it is too late.

Edward Miliband: The Prime Minister is certainly getting very angry, Mr Speaker, but perhaps he is worried about losing the vote this afternoon. The reality is that our MEPs voted the same way as his on the motion before the European Parliament 10 days ago. He cannot convince anyone on Europe. Last year he flounced out of the December negotiations with a veto and the agreement went ahead anyway. He has thrown in the towel even before these negotiations have begun. He cannot convince European leaders; he cannot even convince his own Back Benchers. He is weak abroad, he is weak at home—it is John Major all over again.

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman’s position is completely incredible. He says he wants a cut in the EU budget but he does not sanction a veto. We have made it clear that we will use the veto, as I have used it before. So, let me ask him: will you use the veto?

Mr Speaker: Order. I will not be using the veto. I ask the Prime Minister—this is about the 10th time I have done so—to respect parliamentary procedure in these matters.*

*In case you have no idea what this is about, it was raised as a spurious point of order after PMQs:

Mr Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab):On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Might it be possible to place in The House magazine an article, perhaps written by the Clerk, on the importance of using the third person singular, rather than “you”, in this House? This is not just fussy parliamentarianism, but a very important point that allows us to exchange the most bitter views without making them personal. We should not “you” it, but make references in the third person. We should not throw away what is quite an important protection for us. We can be friends outside the House whatever anger we have in this Chamber, provided that we keep it to the third person.

Mr Speaker:I appreciate the support of the right hon. Gentleman and think that his point is valid. I will reflect on his particular suggestion. Certainly, if there is to be an author, it is scarcely conceivable that there could be a better author than the person whom he has just identified.

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