Today’s PMQs was not, as James says, a tricky one for David Cameron. He had some good jokes and embarrassing gossip to poke Ed Miliband with, even though the Labour leader chose to attack on the thorny issue of living standards.
The key to the next election will be whether voters feel their lives have improved under the Coalition far more than it is about the latest ONS release on GDP. And the key challenge for the Coalition is to be clear that though things won’t be rosy – as Miliband pointed out, the squeeze on living standards will still be taking place when polling day arrives – they would be worse under Labour. Cameron made this point today:
‘The answer is people will be a lot better off than they were under Labour, with a record deficit, with unreformed welfare, with a busted banking system, they will have seen a government that’s got the deficit down, that’s cut their income taxes, that’s dealt with the banks and as the governor of the Bank of England said today, is on the road to recovery.’
You can listen to the full exchange between the two leaders below:
What Labour wants to do is present the next election as a simple choice between one party in government that is wrong, and one party in opposition that is right. That’s quite easy to do, but it is of course possible to have two parties that are both wrong, rather than a simple binary choice of ‘the Tories are getting this badly wrong, therefore Labour must be able to get it right’. Or it’s equally possible to have a party in government that is getting it right and the opposition party continuing to make the same old mistakes, which is what Cameron tried to argue today by mocking Miliband’s forthcoming ‘no new policy’ economy speech.
But at the bottom of all this needs to be a focus in the next Budget, and those budgets and autumn statements after that, on hacking away at the cost of living as far as is feasible. Perhaps there could even be room for another victory for campaigning MP Robert Halfon, this time on the 10p tax rate, as Cameron made reference to Labour’s abolition of that rate today. The autumn statement made good progress on that, but for the Tories to make an effective case that things would get a whole lot worse under Labour, George Osborne can’t let that focus slip between now and 2015.
Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.