‘We’d borrow more, but we’d use it better.’ That was the message Ed Miliband found himself trying to get across when attacking David Cameron at PMQs today. He accused the Prime Minister of ‘borrowing for failure’, saying:
‘He is borrowing for failure: that is the reality, and he is borrowing more for failure. That is the reality of his record. And here is the truth: they said they’d balance the books, they said they’d get growth, they haven’t.’
So Labour would borrow for success. What would that mean? Miliband decided to tease us by not mentioning how he’d do better borrowing. The two leaders traded quotes from various IMF staff members, as it’s easy to find something in anything the IMF issues to suit your own theories about the economy. Miliband did, overall, have the better lines, but Cameron supplied two good attacks, accusing Miliband of telling voters to ‘give the car keys back to the people who crashed the car in the first place’, and describing the party as ‘doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past because they haven’t learned the lessons’.
These exchanges were not the most gripping of all the PMQs scraps since 2010: today’s star question came from Alex Cunningham, turning the horsemeat scandal into a question about Adam Afriyie’s leadership bid. You can listen to that below:
But PMQs did underline the challenges facing Cameron and Miliband. For Miliband, he needs to define why his plan for borrowing even more than the government would be a good thing and lead to success.
As for Cameron, he has clearly made his case that voters shouldn’t trust Labour with the economy in 2015. But where he continues to struggle is on whether he does see this government’s borrowing predicament as a successful way of dealing with the deficit. He did address this in his answers, telling Gavin Shuker that ‘we have got the deficit down by a quarter and in order to get on top of our debts you have to get on top of our deficit, that is stage one of getting on top of our debts’. In 2015, he won’t just have to prove that you can’t trust Ed Balls: he needs to convince voters that his ‘borrowing for success’ is the way to lead the country back to the good times.
More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.