Lloyd Evans

PMQs sketch: Ed Miliband’s fuel bill and Labour’s trappist vow on public finances

PMQs sketch: Ed Miliband's fuel bill and Labour's trappist vow on public finances
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It was a doddle for Ed Miliband at PMQs this afternoon. The nation watched agog yesterday as the energy companies deployed a handful of silk-lined suits to justify their price hikes to a parliamentary committee. Miliband arrived at the house knowing that victory was simple. He just had to fuse the Tories and Big Energy in the public mind and then sit back and enjoy the results. But he got ambushed by David Cameron who had a surprise document up his sleeve. Miliband’s fuel bill. First Cameron reminded us of his advice to consumers last week.

‘Switch your energy company and save £200.’ This idea had been instantly derided by the Labour leader. Yet he himself had just changed supplier. Cue Tory hilarity.

Cameron twisted the blade. ‘He attacks Tory policy here and then he goes home and adopts Tory policy to help his family.’

Miliband looked rather stung. Was this a breach of privacy? What a man does with his sockets and plugs is surely his own business. He carried on with his initial plan and accused Cameron of being a pimp for the Big Six. And he christened them the Big Seven in honour of their posh new tout. He also claimed that Cameron’s shifting views on green taxes had driven him down a very weird evolutionary path, ‘from Rambo to Bambi.’

This is hardly the most coherent insult. And it lacks topicality. Rambo is thirty years old. Bambi, twice that. Miliband finally hit his stride when he walloped Cameron with the punchy label, ‘Weak.’

‘He’s too weak to stand up to the energy companies.’

Unfortunately, Cameron had already co-opted the same adjective.

‘A weak leader with no ideas.’

Everyone knows these attack-words are suggested by focus groups. It seems both parties have been using the same one, perhaps to save money.

The Tory backbenches were in effusive mood today. They spoke with a single voice. And that voice said. ‘Cheer up, you lot. We’re going to make a fortune!’

Well, sort of. Growth is surging, unemployment falling. And for the first time in decades Britain is flogging more cars abroad than it buys. Meanwhile Labour is looking muddle-headed and wrong. Their false Delphic utterances were repeatedly exposed today. As recently as 2012, Miliband had prophesied a major dole-quake which would fling a million decent workers onto the scrap heap. In fact, a million new jobs have been created.

‘Apologise!’ cried the Tories. Fat chance. Politicians only seem to express contrition for the misdeeds of their ancestors. Many more Labour boobs were highlighted by today’s Conservative gloat-in. During 13 years in power, they forgot to build any new power stations. Their plan to electrify the railway lines petered out after just nine miles. And their yoof employment scheme shrank the exchequer while lengthening the dole queues. The Tories hammered these points home with a zest that bordered on tedium. At 12.26, Cameron caught himself clock-watching.

‘It’s 26 minutes past twelve,’ he announced, sounding amazed that the time had passed so swiftly. ‘And there hasn’t been a single question on the economy.’

It’s true. Labour have taken a Trappist vow on the public finances. Hardly surprising. The economic upturn may even scupper Miliband’s energy freeze which, at its most basic, appeals to the voter’s purse. And greedy electors may prefer a government that’s revving up the whole economy to a party that wants to slap price-cuffs on a single sector. Whenever positive economic news was mentioned, Labour tried to look the other way.

They’ve become the undertaker’s party. Only disaster will make them feel optimistic.