PMQS: Dismal Miliband would sail us on to the rocks

As Miliband’s leadership crisis rumbled into a third week, you would have thought he would have prepped some better lines, writes our UK Political Editor Harry Cole

Didums: he's looker weaker and weaker by the day
Harry Cole
On 18 January 2012 15:43

Don’t be fooled by those cheers and huzzahs that filled the Commons as the Leader of the Opposition rose to hold the Prime Minister to account at their weekly duel. They were not coming from his own team, but Conservative MPs, delighted with the on-going implosion of the Labour Party and their donors, all distressed by the direction Ed Miliband is taking them.

However nobody quite seems to know what that direction is. 

This is the third week of Miliband’s leadership crisis and he‘s losing friends fast. Having spent over a year in reality-denial, the latest relaunch by the Labour leadership has seen them decide that they won’t reverse the government cuts, yet they also oppose them. 

Miliband has chosen the one cut to support that is guaranteed to upset his last remaining friends: of all the things sure to upset his union paymasters, supporting a public sector pay freeze was top of the list. It was a tactical blunder that the Prime Minister was easily able to use to drive a wedge through the Labour benches. Even a television viewer could see the grimaces as Cameron declared his wannabe successor “not even competent enough to complete a u-turn properly”.

Whatever it is that Ed is trying to say at the moment, he’s saying it terribly. Today was no exception. He had no choice on whether to lead his questions on unemployment, but it did sound like he was rather worried about his own job.

While Labour pundits in the post-match spin have talked of Ed having fire this week, in reality Miliband attacks with nothing more than half empty super-soaker. So he thinks Osborne is going too far, too fast, yet says that he cannot commit to reverse any of the apparent damage.

His confused message has effectively left him asking for the mess to be worse when he will apparently “inherit” government in 2015. Such presumptions come in the same breath as calling Cameron out of touch.

Despite being the only one attempting to undertake a u-turn at the moment, Ed called again on the government to change course. Presumably he was talking about picking up Labour’s much touted “Five Point Plan for Growth” which pledged some £38 billion in extra borrowing. Where does that rank in the “mess Labour will inherit?”

With new highs in the number of people out of work today, it should have been easy pickings for any opposition leader. However, all we got was that the endlessly repeated line that the Prime Minister is “out of touch”. In this week of all weeks he needed much more than that. 

Instead of trying to expand, Ed just claimed we are going “back to the Tory eighties.”

Back to the eighties when the Tories won three elections in a row and there was an economic boom? The attack echoed Labour’s internal theme of bashing Blairism. They seem blind to what success really is.

It was another week of the same old lines, tried and tested and found wanting at countless bouts in the chamber.

No wonder Cameron even found a moment to quote the founder of Labour Business, Luke Bozier, who defected to the Conservatives this week.

Of all the weeks to be lecturing about changing course, maybe Ed should have a look at what happened in Italy, both literally when a course is changed in the dark, and metaphorically in terms of where his course change will take us.

Harry Cole is the UK Political Editor for The Commentator and the News Editor for the Guido Fawkes Blog. He tweets at @MrHarryCole

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