Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

PMQs sketch: Ed Balls ruins Miliband’s piece of theatre

Last week, if you can remember that far back, World War Three was about to start in Ukraine. The fixture was postponed, thankfully, and politics at Westminster has returned to the usual domestic blood-letting.

Both leaders were in chipper mood. Cameron sees everything moving in his direction, including the Labour party which has accepted his benefits cap.

Miliband was equally buoyed up. He was grinning and skipping at the despatch box like a boxing kangaroo. The energy giant SSE had just announced a price freeze till 2016. Which is exactly what Miliband prescribed last autumn. So today, at least, he appears to be running the country. Naturally he made the most of it. He mocked the prime minister for likening price regulation to ‘a communist plot.’

Cameron refuted Miliband’s authorship of SSE’s freeze. On the contrary, he said, it was all due to his decision to ‘roll back the cost of green levies.’ He quoted an internal SSE document commenting on Miliband’s price promise. ‘An externally imposed freeze would not affect the cost of supplying energy.’

But so what? The public will register a causal progession: Miliband urges freeze. Freeze arrives. Ergo freeze down to Miliband.

Both leaders were engaged in some pretty bizarre footwork here. Miliband was claiming credit for a benefit he didn’t create. And Cameron, to deny Miliband an advantage, was claiming that the benefit originated in his betrayal of his most dearly held principle.

Miliband is now allergic to an expanding list of political issues. Growth, unemployment, inflation and the deficit. Cameron enumerated them, jeeringly. In his desperation the Labour leader turned to a single clause from a single page (p47) of the OBR report which endorses his complaint that living costs are rising and living standards falling.

‘Ah, finally!’ said Cameron, with his favourite note of triumphant cruelty, ‘he’s got to the budget.’

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