PMQs: Miliband masters mischief making
After Harriet Harman stunk up last week's PMQs, this was Miliband's chance to come back with a bang. He didn't disappoint
The Prime Minister isn’t having a very good week. Again. He could have been the world’s greatest orator, fantastically briefed and on sparkling form today, but he was walking into a bear trap thanks to his own Chancellor and team. One backbencher tweeted moments before the bout that George Osborne was an arrogant coward. This was never going to go well for Cameron.
Yesterday’s frankly bizarre u-turn on planned rises in fuel duty cannot be faulted for principle but rather the crazy way it was rushed out. Osborne’s case was not helped by one of his Junior Ministers – Chloe Smith – getting savaged on Newsnight and showing a dangerous glimpse into the inner workings of this government. It was not pleasant and reeks of chaos and policy being made up on the hoof.
Miliband looked like he was enjoying it. And why not? I’ve said before that he has his best days when Cameron is already on the back foot and he can gently tap the ball into the net. But today he went further than that and – whisper it – even had some good lines.
Opening with an obvious one to lash Cameron to the mast of Osborne’s sinking budget ship, the Leader of the Opposition positively relished throwing the Prime Minister's words back in his face:
“‘I will defend every part of that Budget. I worked on it very closely... line by line’ What went wrong?”
And then he was off: “Let’s just call it what it is - another panic at the pumps.” Boom boom!
For some reason Miliband seemed to think that because the government has scrapped a Labour policy, it was somehow a vindication of Labour’s bonkers plans to try stimulate the economy through more borrowing and buying votes. It’s not, but then again facts like that don’t matter when you are on a roll and winning the day.
On to tax avoidance and the best line of the day came out. With reference the troubles facing the extremely tax efficient Jimmy Carr, Miliband quipped that it’s “one rule for the comedians on the stage, another for the comedians on the frontbench.”
How many members of the Cabinet actually earn over a million pounds a year? None. Outside interests must be declared. There are some murky blind trusts floating around, and plenty of assets, but income is income.
If Miliband wants to accuse the Cabinet of owning property he might want to have a look at his own portfolio or that of his colleagues. Maybe he could lean over to the niece of the Countess of Longford - his deputy leader Harriet Harman - and ask her for some advice.
If Miliband is deliberately confusing wealth and income then he is being disingenuous for the sake of a cheap point. If he’s genuinely confused then he should be taken out and shot.
Yet, as ever, facts and reason were drowned out in a wave of planted questions and cheers.
High voiced, squeaky and on the back foot from the first question, an angry Prime Minister must want to wring his loyal friend George Osborne’s neck right now.
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