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PMQs sketch: Ed Miliband, the political vulture

12 December 2012

PMQs today revealed just how dependent Ed Miliband is on Britain’s future performance. The public finances have shaped his entire career. In government, he watched Gordon Brown screw the economy. Then he watched the economy return the compliment. Now he hopes the economy will wreck the Coalition and propel him into Downing Street.

But there’s a snag. The economy has to tank, and to carry on tanking, for Miliband’s Mission Zero to succeed. And today, in defiance of all the soothsayers, the economic news is good. Employment figures are rising. Nearly 30 million Britons are in work. And those tricky youth unemployment totals are moving into sunny territory too. Ed Miliband, the political vulture, will starve without fresh corpses on the savannah.

To turn the happy tidings into sorrow and gloom, he tried tracking back to last week’s Autumn Statement. He wanted to embarrass the PM with the shocking revelation that ‘60 per cent of those hit by the welfare cuts’ are in work. Easy answer for Cameron. Forget 60 percent. Everyone who gets welfare is taking a trim because the government must make ‘the tough and necessary choices’ to clobber the deficit into shape.

The two leaders tussled, as they often do, over conflicting interpretations of the figures. The scariest claim Miliband could offer was that a working family might lose £534 under to the Chancellor’s plans. That’s per year, by the way. A tenner a week. Unwelcome, of course, but it won’t have the grave-diggers emptying buckets of lime onto great piles of plague-hit cadavers. And that’s what Miliband wants.

Ed Balls was his old self today, heckling and shrieking, like a football hooligan in a departure lounge. It’s never clear who Balls is trying to intimidate: the prime minister whom he loathes or the Labour leader whom he merely disparages. Both probably. It’s a sure sign that Miliband is struggling when Balls cranks up the volume on his behalf. Cameron took advantage and referred to Balls’s faltering response to the Autumn Statement last week.

‘Like bullies all over the world, he can dish it out but he can’t take it.’


Miliband sensed an opportunity here. He shook his head and gave the prime minister his special tut-tut look which he seems to think is a vote-winner. (Memo to Miliband: instead of appearing trustworthy and statesmanlike, you have the air of a Spanish torturer looking for an inquisition to join.)

‘The boy from the Bullingdon Club,’ said Miliband in mock disbelief, ‘is lecturing people on bullying?’ Then he added this impetuous aside.

‘Have you wrecked a restaurant recently?’

A risky insult this. His eyes darted nervously, even as he said it. Spur-of-the-moment jibes often explode in the attacker’s face. But he was in luck. His backbenchers took up their leader’s newly-minted motto.

‘Wrecked a restaurant?’ they called as the next three Tories stood to ask a question.

The prime minister took every chance to hammered home his message. The Tories support work. Labour loves welfare. The ill-disciplined opposition heckled him so much that he lost patience and slammed Miliband for ‘not being able to keep his mouth shut for five seconds.’

An ill-tempered session. And it ended with this attack from the Labour leader.

‘They [the Tories] look after people on their Christmas card list. But they hit people they never meet and whose lives they will never understand.’

A strong, well-crafted line but it was delivered in a perfunctory, passionless voice.

Miliband has enjoyed a golden autumn. He inflicted a series of damaging defeats on Cameron. But it’s over now. And his neighbour-from-hell is back in full voice too. That’s even more worrying for him. Because just as he can succeed only if Britain fails, so Balls can rise only if Miliband sinks.

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  • barbie

    I’m fed of them all, none have any idea what they’ve inflicted upon ordinary people by their policies, and the worst bit, they don’t care one jot. Both have spent our money abroad against our wishes, and even now Cameron and Osbourne proclaim its our moral duty, well I disagree. Its their moral duty to look after this country and its citizens not foreign shores. While they spend £15 billion plus on foreign aid they’ve got no arguement for cuts here; if we can afford that we can afford things at home.
    My vote from now on, whatever they come up with from either side, will go to UKIP, and Nigel Farage. I would just love to see his party get most of all the votes and the main three subjected to face defeat. That would certainly make them think. We need people to vote for UKIP enmass to get it, but I can dream can’t I, you never know dreams sometimes come true.

  • Steven Efstathiou

    Britain is at risk of following Greece with rising interest rates and soaring debt repayments, shadow chancellor George Osborne warned today.

    Osborne said the pre-budget report (PBR) this month was “playing with economic fire” by failing to produce a credible plan to tackle the national debt.

    In an article for the Daily Telegraph, Osborne said only the election of a Conservative government would avert a crisis for Britain in the wake of Labour’s alleged mismanagement of the economy.

    No ‘picking over the economic corpse’ by George, back in 2009, then.

  • HooksLaw

    I think a man with an amputated hand and no thumbs would be able to count on his remaining fingers the number of restaurants ever trashed in Oxford by any of its University dining clubs. Its yet another overblown labour lie.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Labour created a public sector bandwagon with jobs for the boys (and girls). A massive taxpayer funded state representing power over others (they call it “progress”) which has caused both societal and fiscal imbalance. The Coalition erred in not destroying this bloated edifice and taking the bloody consequences (short term misery) rather than nibbling at the edges of its relentless growth – and still being accused of “cuts”. The dynamic has not changed. The edifice in situ will work relentlessly to restore the Labour Lords of the Bandwagon who believe that money grows on trees and that “Growth” (praise be its name) can be stimulated by borrowing even more (try that, try buying a £500,000 house on your credit card).

  • Chris lancashire

    Just as the Balls volume is a measure of Miliband struggling so is the invocation of the Bullingdons. Every time Miliband has clearly nothing to say he reverts to the posh boy line. It is to Cameron’s eternal credit that he never stoops to referring to Miliband’s privileged socialist salon background.
    This ongoing attempt at class war is one of the most unpleasant facets of current Lablour. Talk about policy? Nah, much easier to smear.

    • dorothy wilson

      Spot on!

  • Bluesman

    How many restaurants (and other businesses) did that wonderful triumvirate of Milliband/Balls/Brown wreck? Apparently the Bullingdon clowns paid for the damage whereas we are all paying for Labour’s wrecking of businesses.

    • Andy Boyne

      Exactly. Wreck a restaurant or wreck an entire country?

      ps – Surely Bercow reprimanded Ed for that insult?

  • McRobbie

    Its getting really boring listening to the Bullingdon boys jibe, what about the booker boys leading the opposition, millie got his redness reading books and balls got his ignorance throwing them. These two certainly are mocking us if they want us to think they are actually in a better position than the cameron osborne team to be in touch with the plebs because they “understand” us. They were brought up even farther from the real world than the government. How many of them were fishmongers sons brought up in aberdeen like gove, thats a real world upbringing.

    • Titus__Pullo

      I’m wouldn’t be surprise if 99% of the electorate have no clue what the Bullingdon Club is. They’re not a boy band on The X-Factor.

  • Troika21

    Its all well and good saying there’s more employment, but if that employment low wage, zero contract or an apprenticeship (as I suspect it is), then the economy is just going to plod along without much energy and might even tank again.

    For example, in the last three- four months I’ve seen a massive rise in the number of apprenticeship positions, I can guess why: these pay £2.65 per hour rather than £6.19. Anyone on apprenticeship rates is almost certainly living at home with their parents, or otherwise has some additional support; in effect, parents are subsidising employers.

    The government can shrug off Ed’s attacks, but they should be worried; if it becomes ingrained that employment provides so little return, disaster looms.

    • Theodoxia

      What point are you making? Do you believe that apprenticeships are a bad thing; that apprentices are employed in them all their working lives? Are you arguing that people shouls necessarily be paid a full wage while training in an apprenticeship scheme? Do you think there is something harmful about young people living with their parents during the time they are learning a trade?

      • Troika21

        Having spent the last year going through an apprenticeship I can tell you that they are not all they are cracked up to be.

        Part of the reason is that many (not all) apprenticeships are not ‘a trade’ – they are replacements for entry level positions that require no skills beyond turning up and paying attention to on-the-job training.

        My concern is that employers are using the push for apprentices to replace full-time, entry level positions with what are often government subsidised apprenticeships.

    • McRobbie

      Thats the left whinge argument that has made the UK lacking in skills for the modern age. Labour deride apprenticeships instead of supporting them. My father wanted to train an apprentice but could not afford to pay his wages, the boys parents were willing to pay for the boys training but thanks to labours’ labour laws the boy was unable to get the trade he wanted. Thanks bigoted blind left whingers for ruining another life. But hi, socialists have standards to maintain… mediocrity for all.

      • Troika21

        Like I wrote in reply to Theodoxia, I’ve been through an apprenticeship and they are just not very good.

        Germany is usually the country that politicians look to as a booster for apprenticeships, but, as I understand it, the main reason why apprenticeships are valued there is because its a (practically) guaranteed path for a life-long career, because apprenticeships there are all for protected work (in Germany, there are more than 200 types of work that you cannot do if you haven’t been an apprentice), and there are a large number of companies that need the skills and will spend money and effort getting them.

        I’m planning to go on to the local University. Frankly, as I’ve found out, a decent job requires a degree these days. An NVQ (Level 2) just does not cut it.

        • Colonel Mustard

          You sound bogus to me. Like an “ordinary” member of the Question Time audience who turns out to be a rabid, left-wing, Labour party activist.

    • dorothy wilson

      But allowing some companies to employ people on a low wage was one of the reasons why the German economy recovered after unification.

    • HooksLaw

      its a funny old recession that sees rising car sales, rising investment in the car industry, record sales from Porsche and more people in jobs and falling unemployment.
      When Nissan start producing their Golf segment car, Sunderland alone will be producing more cars than the whole of Italy.

  • Jim20

    Our economy is a false economy, it is totally supported by the BoE. How much longer can it last? It beats me, but when it does go down neither Cameron nor Milliband are going to be a lot of use.

    • Andy

      I tend to agree. What the Tories should have done was allowed the LibDems and Labour to go into coalition, so they would have got the blame for the economy.

      • Chris lancashire

        Unfortunately Andy it wasn’t up to the Tories, nobody could tolerate the idea of working with Brown.

      • milliboot

        Everybody knows who is to blame for the economy, and they have the nerve to whinge at the PM !

    • swatantra

      It may no longer be the economy, (stupid) which mastters, since both Parties are moving towards a very similar position. More may hinge on TRUST, ie which leader would you trust more, or which Party would you trust more. That is why we have so many novices coming out with ‘Boris for PM’ which if it were to happen would see GB plummet to the level of Italy in the economic stakes. Also its a question of united Parties. The public don’t like squabling and the Tories are split down the middle on Europe and Gay Marriage and Human Rights, and that could be the deciding factor.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    You’re being a bit presumptuous. Either of Millipede/Balls can succeed, in any economic environment whatsoever, as long as the Cameroons are their opposition. And they didn’t inflict “damaging defeats” on the Cameroons. Those were own goals. The Cameroons continue to sink because of their own actions and inactions.

    It’s not that the Millipedes/Balls are of interest or value, they’ll just have the redeeming quality of not being Cameroons, in an environment where the Cameroons have previously driven away conservative support.

    • Procrustes

      There is also a redeeming quality in not being in Millipede’s camp. Your theory assumes everyone hates the incumbent government,so they get voted out. Brown was not a clear loser last time round,which kind of breaks your theory. Or deos it only apply to particular flavours of government?

      • the viceroy’s gin

        There is also a redeeming quality in not being in the Cameroons’ camp.

        My theory “assumes” nothing, hateful or otherwise. It merely points out that the Cameroons are leftist, failed to win a majority against a much hated government, and now have their own record of failure and un-conservative government. All of this means that they’re driving off support from all sides, not least from the conservative side.

        So as the current data tells us, the Cameroons will likely go down to either of Millipede/Balls. No great surprise, and your whimpering about it won’t change facts or the data.

        • milliboot

          Stop saying Millipede and Cameroon FFS if you want your comments taken seriously.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            Might be best you skip my posts. Millipede and Cameroon are quite descriptive, and won’t be departing standard usage in them, I assure you .

  • toco10

    Red(‘I never needed a job given my Marxist father’s political influence and money’) Ed will always fail this country.This hapless excuse for a man will call for a Public Inquiry if tomorrow the sun refuses to rise and again 12 hours later if it refuses to set.

    • telemachus

      In some ways you have it
      If you watch PMQ’s you see the true challenge to the government and the PM personally sits at his right hand
      This challenge has him rattled week on week

      • Sarge

        I disagree -what sits at his right hand will be a chalenge to all of us.

        • telemachus

          To clarify
          He who sits at Milibands right hand

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