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Budget 2014: The Tories gave Ed Miliband licence to become a class warrior

19 March 2014

No opposition leader looks forward to responding to the Budget. It’s one of the harder gigs as you get little notice of the detailed measures that may cause real rows and are scribbling feverishly throughout the statement to try to make your pre-written speech sound relevant. But it is still an achievement that Ed Miliband in his own response managed to avoid talking about anything in the Budget other than the new design of the pound coins.

He started by reminding the House of Commons of how much further the Chancellor needs to go before hardworking families up and down the country feel as cheerful as the Tories. He said:

‘But he did not mention one central fact: The working people of Britain are worse off under the Tories. Living standards down: month after month, year after year. 2011 – living standards down. 2012 – living standards down. 2013 – living standards down. And since the election working people’s living standards £1,600 a year – down. You’re worse off under the Tories.’

The point about living standards is a valid one. But it doesn’t answer the question that Osborne set in his speech, which was who has the greater credibility to deliver the cuts necessary after the 2015 election.

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Miliband then went back two years to his favourite budget to talk about the 50p tax before challenging the Prime Minister to rule out lowering the 45p rate to 40p in a future parliament. David Cameron and George Osborne chuckled at him while Danny Alexander looked distinctly dead bodyish. Labour sees this as an excellent attack line that it can use over and over again in the run-up to the 2015 election given the fallout from the 50p decision in 2012. But it doesn’t have much to do with today’s budget.

And then he relished the Eton Mess in the Tory party, saying:

‘What is the latest rebrand from the Bullingdon club? It is beyond parody. Because what does this lot now call themselves? They call themselves ‘The workers’ party’. And who is writing the manifesto for this new workers’ party? We already know the answer and I quote: “There are six people writing the manifesto, five went to Eton…”

‘By my count more Etonians writing the manifesto than there are women in the Cabinet.No girls allowed. And this week we’ve heard it right from the top. Here’s what his former best friend, his closest ally, the Education Secretary had to say about the Prime Minister’s inner circle. He said it was, and I quote: “Ridiculous. Preposterous. Unlike anywhere else in the world.” You know you’re in trouble when even the Education Secretary calls you a bunch of out of touch elitists.

‘And where is the Education Secretary? I think he has been banished … He’s hiding! I think he has been consigned to the naughty step by the Prime Minister. I think it’s time we listened to Baroness Warsi and took the whole Eton mess out of Downing Street. And what a mess it is.’

Some commentators are unimpressed with Miliband’s class war. But who was it who gave him licence to become a class warrior in the House of Commons Chamber? It was the Tories, who have spent the past week talking about Eton, and who have been rumbling for months about the same topic. They have been off-message in the week running up to the Budget, their own senior ministers have gone on freelance missions which deliberately highlight the PM’s weak spot on Eton, and they have drawn attention to the fury that this caused in Number 10. The Conservatives served up the meat for Miliband on a well-garnished plate this week. They should be kicking themselves for being so absorbed in a non-existent leadership contest that they made themselves class warriors, not moaning that Ed Miliband noted a weak spot. It was one of the cannier things he did today.

P.S. It’s worth noting that the Tories did initially try to do a Treasury Support Group wall of noise on Miliband during his response. Greg Hands and Gavin Williamson were both rebuked by the Deputy Speaker for roaring. But they didn’t muster quite the same intimidating atmosphere as they did for Ed Balls at the Autumn Statement in 2013.

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Show comments
  • David Prentice
  • Chris Bristol

    I’m impressed by the newfound disdain from conservatives about how Milliband didn’t actually respond to the Budget, he merely trotted out the dogwhistles. Surely this has never happened before- like say with every other budget from every other opposition leader?

    You know Miliband hit the nail on the head when you have all the conservative lackeys in a tizzy.

    I will give Cameron and the whips office credit for this much: Their concerted efforts to shout down the opposition have been impressively organized throughout the parliament. Yet another reason why Miliband was the star of the Budget show… he was completely unfazed despite the puerile cacophony.

    His evisceration of the Limp Dumbs was especially heartwarming. Onwards to 2015 and a Labour government for the many. :)

  • DavidL

    Piffle. Miliband served up some of his rehashed class-war platitudes in place of a response to the Budget because Labour has nothing to say about the economy: by refusing to admit to the failures of the Blair/Brown years, they essentially disqualify themselves from discussing how to tackle the deficit and reduce the debt. He sounded like a cracked gramophone record (you won’t remember those, Isabel), and a querulous, adenoidal one at that….. and for once the Coalition managed to keep its powder dry: the ISA and pensions changes seemed to catch Labour completely unawares.

    • Kitty MLB

      Indeed a lot of recycled rubbish from his script, the usual childish attacks
      that had no relation to the budget and he forgot about the recession and the EU crisis- utter rubbish as usual from silliband.

  • D Whiggery

    Car crash of a performance from Milibland.

    • Kitty MLB

      I think the word of the moment is MESS- Doncaster instead of Eton,
      from Ed Silliband.

    • Makroon

      I doubt Red will gain much from that peevish, childish performance, trotting out all the favourite Labour dog-whistles, (which leave most of the population yawning). Of course, the BBC will do it’s usual “remix” and by the 10 o’clock news, it will be presented as a stunning tour de force.

      • HookesLaw

        But there is at least one good point in the article – that tory back benchers are thick, they cannot stop rubbishing themselves. So called cheerleaders for various ministers want stringing up.

  • swatnan

    EdM seems to have missed the Budget Speech altogether! His response was just the continuation of PMQs.

  • Kitty MLB

    Poor little Tweedle Dee sitting next to the rather deflated red faced balloon
    Tweedle Dum.
    You know he’s lost any argument when he mentions The Bullington Club.
    Our very own little class warrior from Doncaster–Whoops- That’s Oxford
    and London. And such a short memory. Excellent joke by
    the chancellor about King John and Milipede.

  • saffrin

    Shock horror, Miliband fails to point out it’s all because his party wrecked the economy.

    • Tiger Lily

      Yeah, apologies about that Global Recession that began in the US. All Labour’s fault.

      • saffrin

        Yep, all Labour’s fault. Who spent ALL the money, who created Britain’s debt mountain and the need thereof?
        Who failed to regulate the banks?

        • Tiger Lily

          In regards to spending, Osborne doesn’t agree with you.

          On the debt, our debt to (%) ratio was the lowest in the G7 in 2010.

          On regulation, Thatcher had the same approach and the Tories criticised us for having regulation on the banks too stringent…

          Any more?

          • Colonel Mustard

            On spending you can’t have matching Labour and the “cuts”. Which is it then?

            On regulation. Come off it. You can’t keep blaming Thatcher after thirteen years of Brown and Blair. Brown’s regulation “improvements” were bonkers – like him.

            • Tiger Lily

              I know right? How dare Osborne claim Labour’s spending was profligate when he promised to match Labour spending in the boom years. Completely hypocritical.

              Why can’t I? I’m not necessarily blaming Thatcher. I’m pointing out she was the architect of short-termism and low regulation for the banks. Plus, at the time, 2006 I believe, Osborne delivered a speech criticising Labour’s stringent regulation of the banks.

          • saffrin

            All irelevent. Labour broke the bank. Labour killed the country and the fact this government is little better than the last doesn’t negate Labour’s gross incompetence in any way.
            The only benefit to the nation in this is the population at large are now aware the Houses of Parliament are full to the brim with self interested troughers and idiots.

            • Tiger Lily

              The Coalition has borrowed more in 4 years, compared to Labour’s 13…

              • HookesLaw

                Yawn – Labour left a record deficit, spending out of control and a broken economy shrunk by 7% and a set of broken banks.

              • saffrin

                They had to. Labour dumped them with an annual £159 Billion deficit just to stand still remember.
                I take it you do know what a deficit is?

          • HookesLaw

            As the Institute for Fiscal Studiessaid – bluntly: “Labour entered the current crisis with one of the largest structural budget deficits in the industrial world.”

            That means that they were wilfully spending money the country could never raise in taxes

        • rtj1211

          I’m afraid you can’t say Labour are irresponsible but huge banks are responsibility-free. The banks are entirely responsible for their own behaviour and if they needed treating like convicts in a prison because of their financial irresponsibility then it is they who must shoulder the blame. Absolutely, categorically and unequivocally. And more to the point, they shouldn’t be allowed to manage money ever again due to that irresponsibility.

          Labour take responsibility for not regulating them, but the banks take full responsibility for their own behaviour.

      • GUBU


        Rather than reproach them, we should thank Labour for ‘abolishing’ boom and bust.

        It worked well, didn’t it?

        • Tiger Lily

          Of course not. But Labour certainty didn’t bust the economy and created a Global Recession. That claim is absurd.

          • Kitty MLB

            Maybe Labour did not cause the global recession or indeed
            the EU meltdown which has also had a detrimental affect
            on progress and growth. Yet they most certainly left us in
            a leaky boat without any paddles in shark infested waters. They spent all our money, wrecked our own economy,
            sold off all our gold, destroyed our manufacturing cities and did not regulate the banks. As well as creating a benefits culture
            destroying our education system and many other little issues.

          • GUBU

            That claim was indeed absurd.

            But Labour under Mr Brown – as Chancellor and then as Prime Minister – governed as if it were true.

          • HookesLaw

            Labour did nothing whilst our banks took on a mass of toxic debt. Where was the regulation? Oh yes it was designed by Gordon Brown. Say no more. It was Brown who built an economy on casino banking and banking bonuses. Its because the banks are bust and rebuilding their balances that lending is low and the recovery has been relatively slow.

      • con

        global recession that began in the us – now that’s a joke we don’t hear so often these days. a gordon mcruin comment i believe.

      • Tony Quintus

        The 7 years of deficit spending which preceeded it and the total failure of regulation caused by splitting oversight between the Bank of England and the FSA, not to mention selling everything that wasn’t nailed down and giving away billions of pounds from the EU rebate for no CAP reform while failing to fund their own Strategic defence review even though they couldn’t stop using the armed forces for all and sundry.
        If Labour had stuck to the Major government spending outline until 2008, as they did for the first 4 years of their administration the UK wouldn’t have even had a national debt by the time the crisis rolled around, instead the moment Gordon Brown slipped his leash he taxed and spent, borrowed and spent, sold and spent, spent, spent until we had treasury ministers leaving cute little notes stating “I’m afraid there’s no money”.
        Take off the crimson blinkers and embrace reality.

    • George_Arseborne

      All Tories are jokers. Lack of policies resort to blames all the time.

      • Colonel Mustard

        “Lack of policies resort to blames all the time”.

        Now coming from a Labour mouthpiece that is a joke. Labour are a party of doing pretty much nothing more than blaming others.

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