The tone of today’s PMQs was set as soon as the participants sat down. The Labour frontbench were adorned in red ribbons to raise awareness for World AIDS Day. On the government benches? Nothing. It was symbolic of the preparation and professionalism that seem to separate Ed Miliband and David Cameron recently, but also the essential element of a bit of genuine compassion. Again, Labour managed to make Cameron look both cruel, and incompetent.
Today showed Ed at his best and Cameron at his worst. Ed’s plan was to start with a focus on the government’s failed work programme, before spreading out into a comparison with Labour’s Future Jobs Fund, and eventually an attack on the economy and the government as a whole. This worked perfectly; as Ed developed the argument, Cameron developed a red face.
It does now seem to be Labour strategy at PMQs to get Cameron’s blood boiling. Ed seems to come equipped with vaguely patronising lines designed to provoke the theatrical laughs and bright red face that shows Cameron has been caught out. Today’s best was the refrain of ‘calm down’ that sent Cameron into a spin. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ed Balls look any happier.
In between his baiting Ed raised some great points. The line ‘we can’t afford to not have young people in work’ was especially powerful, and the repeated ‘has long-term unemployment increased by 96 per cent?’ forced Cameron into ludicrous listing of alternative statistics, while refusing to engage with the actual question.
Today I thought John McDonnell really stood out. His question on cuts to child benefit for families with disabled children really touched a nerve. As the scandal with ATOS has shown the coalition is hitting disabled people hard. Labour need to make a massive effort to ensure, unlike the government, we can offer the disabled just as high a standard of living as everyone else.
Best question, answer, comment or joke?
On a day where there were plenty to pick from it has to be, for sheer irony, Cameron’s claim that Ed represented ‘A leadership that is drowning’. This sort of line might have worked a year ago but it’s becoming consensus that Ed has got into his stride. The irony comes from the fact it was Cameron who was struggling, a leader drowning under his own crimson tide.
Brad Marshall is a Progress member and Labour Student, and he tweets @bradmarshall92
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