Here’s a favourite Tory joke. Question: What does ‘BBC’ stand for? Answer: Buggers Broadcasting Communism.
David Cameron seemed tempted to try this gag at PMQs today. He mentioned the Beeb four times in sardonic asides. ‘Let’s praise the BBC for once,’ he said, bitingly. He woke this morning, he said, to a BBC report stating that public satisfaction with council services had risen despite the cuts.
‘I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.’
He berated Ed Miliband for wanting to introduce new decarbonisation targets. ‘Even the BBC doesn’t agree with that.’ And he attacked Milband’s promise to freeze energy bills as evidence that ‘he’d like to live in a Marxist universe.’ Evidently the Beeb has joined the axis of evil along with Len McCluskey and the sage of Highgate.
Ed Miliband was in a strange mood today. The glumness has gone. And he’s ditched this statuesque air of sorrowing tetchiness. The election is speeding his way. Only 19 months stand between him and a historic triumph or political extinction. This has sharpened his senses and filled his heart with reckless euphoria. He swaggered at the dispatch box today like a doomed pirate being trundled to Tyburn and accepting swigs of grog along the way from gloating onlookers.
Whenever Cameron mentioned fuel bills, Miliband mentioned his new policy breakthrough. ‘Labour’s energy price freeze,’ he said, again and again, as if dictating the message to copywriters for reproduction on billboards across the country. ‘The honourable gentleman has no answer to Labour’s energy price freeze.’
Cameron has three answers to it. It’s a gimmick. It may be scuppered by competition rules. And it depends on the worldwide fuel market which governments are powerless to control. But he failed to mention the true cause of the crisis. Ed Miliband, as Energy Secretary, slapped surcharges on everyone’s bills in order to make wind-farms lucrative for toffs who own vast acreages of gale-lashed moorlands. And though Miliband is accused of extreme left-wingery his policies forced famished grannies to fund fat dukes. A strange brand of socialism.
As for Cameron, his scope for attacking Labour’s price cap is hampered by his willingness to use to state power himself. His mortgage guarantee scheme means the south-east is sitting on a rumbling house-price volcano. And he’s going further. He wants every school-kid in the land to enjoy a slap-up two-course lunch at tax-payer’s expense. Even Ted Heath would have baulked at free roly-poly on that scale.
Cameron failed to land any killer blows on Miliband today. But he had a decent swipe at Ed Balls whose predictions of economic meltdown are starting to read like the angst-ridden poems of a depressed teenager.
The shadow chancellor, said Cameron, had finalised his personal election strategy.
‘He’s going to stand on his experience, his track record and his credibility. It’s like the Captain of the Titanic running on his safety record.’
Ed Balls stared back at him through narrow blue eyes. In repose Balls’s expression has a disturbing aspect. He looks like a retired slaughterman deriving sexual gratification from a training video.
The session ended in confusion. Balls leapt up, after the final question, with a point of order. The Speaker gave him the floor and Balls accused Cameron of misrepresenting the facts about tax breaks for married couples. Was this a point or a question? The Speaker improvised a solution by appearing to extend PMQs for an unscheduled extra minute, but with Balls deputising for Miliband, (who was still present). The PM got a chance to reply. He hailed Balls as ‘the great election winner for us.’
Jubilant Tory backbenchers shouted ‘More, more!’ at the hapless Balls. It’s the closest he’ll ever get to the leadership.