Nicky Morgan and Lucy Powell appear to be the most ill-tempered pair regularly going head-to-head at the Dispatch Box. At Education Questions today, Powell asked about the government’s childcare plans and how it intends to help those who’s tax credits will be cut. Morgan answered by going on the attack:
‘I would believe the honourable lady’s concerns just a little more if it hadn’t been for her party’s peers in the other place, who voted against the Childcare Bill last week and delayed the introduction of the bill and the new scheme’.
‘Perhaps they wouldn’t have done that if she had adequate funding in place?’ Powell hit back. Morgan then blamed the last Labour government for the lack of money to spend on childcare…
‘The reason that funding in all areas of government is so tight is because we are dealing with the economic legacy left by her own party. If she so was interested in this, she would have allowed her peers to support the bill. If the honourable lady wanted people to believe promises she wouldn’t have carved them on an 8ft 6in Edstone unveiled by her former party leader’.
…before attacking Powell for being too negative in her new role:
‘What we do see Mr Speaker is the dearth of thinking from the honourable lady so far in her short tenure as shadow education secretary. We’ve heard negativity about teacher recruitment, about childcare, about schools – including attacking the own school in her own constituency’.
It wasn’t a constructive exchange and didn’t add anything to the tax credits debate — possibly because the issue isn’t directly related to the Department for Education. But neither did it shed much light on the government’s childcare policies, as both women appeared keen to score some points. Although there is an ongoing debate in the House of Lords about the cuts, it’s a shame when exchanges at departmental questions turn into terse exchanges like this — not least because it adds to the public’s fears that politicians only care about ripping pieces off each other. It is still early days though: Powell and Morgan may still find a way to effectively hold each other to account.