Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

PMQs sketch: Cameron kick-starts a Miliband recovery

Cunning work from Milband at PMQs. He played Syria like a fixed-odds betting machine and came away with a minor jackpot. Last week he had urged the prime minister to accept a few hundred of the neediest Syrian refugees. Cameron duly said OK. Today Miliband was quick to claim a victory for decency, for humanity, and for Miliband. ‘I welcome this significant change of heart,’ he said. Choice word, heart. He’s got it. And Cameron hasn’t. That’s the implication. Miliband tried the same tactic with the 50p tax rate.

When Ed Balls unfurled this this new policy he got a mixed bag of reviews. Economists put their fingers in their ears and ran around wimpering. The popular response suggested it was a top ten hit. Cameron’s task today was to point out that raising the upper tax-rate kills growth, throttles investment and puts talent into a limousine bound for Heathrow. Not hard. But he fluffed it. Perhaps Miliband’s recent spate of dire performances had persuaded him to shirk his pre-match training. If so it showed. Miliband’s question was simple.

‘Does he rule out lowering the top rate to 40p? Yes or No’

And Cameron couldn’t answer. Not directly. He said he wanted the rich to pay more tax. He said he favoured lower rates for middle-earners and the poor. And the Institute of Fiscal Studies, he went on, had trashed the 50p policy. Then he changed the subject and called Labour ‘the anti-jobs, anti-business party’. This equivocation was a free gift for Miliband who loves to capitalise on any hint that Cameron is a billionaire’s puppet. He can now portray the Tories as a gang of snooty oligarch-huggers who are hell-bent on stealing yet more dosh from starving orphans so they can lavish it on their over-paid parasite chums.

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