Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

PMQs sketch: This being Yuletide there were some turkey ticklers

Christmas is excellent news for a Labour opposition. The season of goodwill throws rich and poor into sharp relief. Red-faced aldermen gather at loaded tables to gobble up roast goose and plum-duff. And afterwards they throw sixpences at starving chimney-sweeps who scrabble for crusts of bread in the snow. At least that’s how it should be. But Labour is in trouble this year. A dearth of bad news has gripped the country. There’s a chronic shortage of shortages. And the lack of a serious crisis is reaching crisis proportions.

Ed Miliband is suffering. He looked positively nauseous as he stood up at PMQs and applauded the ‘welcome’ fall in joblessness.

‘More!’ shouted the Tories. Miliband’s lips curled queasily. Forcing out his words, he acknowledged that employment was beneficial to individuals and their families. Then he tried to kick the economy’s tyres. He said it was a part-time recovery for a full-time workforce. His problem here is that the world’s finest election strategist would struggle to turn this point into a government-toppling sound-bite.

‘Vote Labour for extra shifts, including Saturday lunchtimes and Wednesday afternoons.’

Cameron rebuffed all his questions with screeds of happy economic news. Job totals are rising across the board, even among women, the young and the long-term unemployed. Miliband had been praying for bad news from each of those tricky sectors. A Transylvanian air has settled over him. Only darkness can revive his fortunes.

He sharply criticised the Coalition for failing to meet its predictions on deficit reduction. But he hasn’t pursued  this line to its conclusion. Labour called for extra borrowing. And the Coalition delivered it. So the Coalition has proved Labour right. And Miliband can’t make that argument for fear of identifying himself as a credit junkie.

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