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PMQs sketch: Ed Miliband looks like an ex-leader-in-waiting

15 January 2014

4:32 PM

15 January 2014

4:32 PM

Truce ditched. Peace deal scrapped. The parties agreed to revive Punch and Judy at PMQs today.

Ed Miliband opened with bankers’ pay. RBS is seeking to give top traders bonuses of 100 per cent. This requires government approval.

‘Is that acceptable?’ asked Miliband.

Cameron was ready with his greased-piglet routine. He squirmed free by ignoring bonuses and focusing on overall remuneration. Any attempt to hike the total payroll, he said, would be opposed.

Miliband pursued the point and Cameron got all hoity-toity. He said he didn’t need a lecture on banking from the man who ‘gave us the biggest bust anywhere in world with RBS,’ and who ‘now rises up with all the authority of Reverend Flowers.’


Miliband’s long face drooped. Next he fluffed his lines and bungled a statistic about council homes. Cameron pounced on the pratfall.

‘We just had a demonstration of the grasp of maths at the Treasury. No wonder we had banks collapsing.’

Cameron then delivered a catty and rambling review of Labour’s efforts in opposition. Miliband, he said, ‘is having to jump around all over the place.’ Long ago he claimed that deficit reduction wouldn’t work. But it has. He then called for Plan B. Then he stopped calling for Plan B. Most recently he talked about the cost of living crisis but now inflation is plummeting.

Cameron’s delivery was flaccid, his words informal and improvised. This should alarm Labour deeply: the PM mounts a blistering attack on their policies but he doesn’t rehearse it in advance because he can’t be bothered. As Miliband slumped in his seat the Tories were calling for ‘More, More!’

They got it. Cameron found a pretext to attack Ed Balls who now offers proof of the axiom that a wounded soldier is more trouble than a dead one. Miliband’s problem is that he can’t jettison Balls without triggering an assassination plot. And he can’t keep him without offering Cameron a chance to punch a bruise every week, and to carry on punching it. Which Cameron did with gusto. He pretended to welcome ‘the silence of the shadow chancellor’ at PMQs.

‘There’s a big debate on banking today but he wasn’t allowed on the radio,’ jeered Cameron. He accused Miliband of hiding Balls ‘by leaving him on the front bench.’
As the session ended, Miliband’s gloom had spread to the entire shadow cabinet. They sat there like a row of scolded school-children, staring at their shoes, unable to raise even a giggle of defiance.

Heartening for the Tories. But sickening for Labour’s rank and file who are about to embark on the great paper-chase that will lead to the Euro elections in May. Party leafleters face weeks of trudging up and down garden paths, stuffing empty promises through letterboxes and into the jaws of slavering dogs. An army needs a spring in its step, a song in its heart, and the hope of victory in its mind’s eye. Today they had to watch as their chief-of-staff burbled and frowned through a guileless, passionless zero-energy performance.

Miliband’s in a spot. His options are narrowing as the economy strengthens. In truth, his own tactics – vulture capitalism – should have made him retch. He wagered that Tories would ruin the public finances. It was a bad call. He now has the air of a bungling hedgie who shorted the UK and is about to be engulfed by bankruptcy as the markets demand their due. Today he looks exactly like he did last summer: an ex-leader-in-waiting.

Cameron has rarely had such an easy stroll to victory.

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Show comments
  • mahatmacoatmabag

    When the T.U.C. elected Wee Ed Wotsisname as their stooge to lead the Marxist Labour party, they truly were scrapping the bottom of the barrel , in fact they have scrapped through the bottom of the barrel into the mud & slime bellow.

  • Not Voting For You

    Let’s be honest, I don’t see how any person wishing to see democracy established here in the UK can vote for any of the main three parties because they are all faces of the same self-serving hydra. If there is to be a reboot of politics in the UK then Labour, Lib Dems and Conservatives must lose legitimacy and this requires the electorate to determine not to support them in any elections.

  • andagain

    He wagered that Tories would ruin the public finances.

    I wondered about that bet. If it was wrong, it would be wrong. But if it was right, then he too would have to plan spending cuts after spending years denouncing them.

    Which possibility would have been good for him?

  • bengeo

    “Today he looks exactly like he did last summer: an ex-leader-in-waiting”.

    Except, no bugger watches Prime Ministers Questions.

  • kcband8

    I watched the BBC reports on PMQs and did not get any inkling that Dave had trashed Eds efforts at holding the Government to account. Funny that.

    • Chris lancashire

      You should have watched ITV.

  • southerner

    Nobody but political wonks and the tribal sheep that post on here give two tup-pennys about PMQs.

    While the left wing LibLabCon pretend to dislike each other and create fictional dividing lines, the Blair project continues unabated.

    • Greenslime

      Tuppence. Reading the rest of your nonsense, you’ll know this. How do you spell numpty?

      • southerner

        Very well done. Would you like to address the content or stick with the name-calling?

  • Denis_Cooper

    Another episode in the Spectator fictional series about the Labour party being in real trouble whereas everything is going swimmingly for the Tories.

  • toco10

    Red Ed was elected by mistake and the Labour Party will never gain credence from the voters until it admits its ridiculous error and sacks this student politician.Red Ed could do worse than get a real job for the first time in his life.

    • telemachus

      Yes Ed is a Socialist and by definition Red
      But the Country needs this
      Crow not too soon
      The EU elections are coming to give Ukip the credibility to allow them to split the Tory vote the following May and deliver 43 marginals to Ed

      • Alexsandr

        oh shut up. UKIP are gaining from all liblabcon, and from the millions who had given up voting for identekit politicians

        • telemachus

          But given the quirks of the electoral system it is the Tory marginals they will steal

          • Chris lancashire

            Sadly, true.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Tripe. The country had 13 years of this from 1997 to 2010 and it was disastrous.

      • RavenRandom

        Remora. Clinging to other’s words and feeding off the population, like a good little soldier.

  • swatnan

    Play it dead boring Ed and get PMQs over in double quick time. Let our MPs do the incisive penetrating Dave bashing questions. PMQs has to be a Labour Team Effort.

    • Chris lancashire

      Well that’s another way of saying Miliband is no use.

      • Peter Stroud


    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      It is impossible for the economically illiterate Labour Party to attack anybody when it has no credible policies of its own to propound and has got each one of its predictions so utterly and completely wrong. Labour’s problem is that it believes it can control the global markets which shape our prosperity or lack thereof. It cannot influence them and its economic pronouncements accordingly lack credibility to all but its supporters who share its economic illiteracy.

      • swatnan

        Its not policies that matter, it personalities. Govt goes on regardless of which Party is in power. What Ed is suffering from is the same indifference that IDS faced when leader, but IDS had the sense to chuck it in, pretty early on.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Labour Tem. Yeah. Right. Tristram Hunt and Andy Burnham. Wow!

  • Roderick

    ‘Cameron has rarely had such an easy stroll to victory.’

    I can’t help feeling that this is bad for democracy. Governments need to be held to account.

    • HookesLaw

      So do opposition parties.

      • southerner

        They don’t actually. Not in this particular Parliamentary forum anyway. Something of a clue in the title of the weekly session under review,

        In any event there is no opposition to speak of. The front benches are entirely interchangeable.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Quite right, but the opposition must have credible, affordable and practical policies capable of implementation with which to beat the government of the day. Labour emphatically does not.