If there were a quote that would be used to sum up today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, it would be David Cameron’s point that British politics has “two parties that have come together in the national interest” and “one party that refuses to apologise for the past”. Cameron dealt Miliband some serious blows today that actually, are all of Labour’s doing. It’s not conducive to good public shows of criticism to have submitted no plans whatsoever for how you would do things differently. Labour has provided nothing to explain how they would deal with the economy, and this was pointed out conclusively and with clarity by Cameron today: a good performance on his part.
Cameron’s fundamental point was that on key areas (immigration, the deficit, rebalancing the economy, welfare, etc.) the Coalition has demonstrated tangible progress. Immigration is down 25% (but us libertarian types don’t care much for that), the deficit is down by 25%, and in an effort to rebalance the economy, a further 1 million jobs have been created in the private sector. All looks peachy based on these facts, but there’s much more to the story. Under Alastair Darling’s plan for deficit reduction, Labour would have cut more than Osborne has cut so far, as the Spectator points out so well graphically. Fundamentally it shows, that whilst original Conservative plans were much more drastic than Darling’s, the reality is actually a lower rate of deficit reduction. Now, Coalition defenders will say that this shows a flexibility in the Coalition plan: the ability to modify their ideas to address changes that could not have been anticipated. America’s fiscal cliff, Europe’s on-going woes – these are things we could not have anticipated to the degree that they have been realised. What it also shows is that maybe Labour had planned a little better from the beginning.
Ed Miliband failed to deal any convincing blows to Cameron, spending his questions asking the PM why he hadn’t published the audit into promises and pledges made by the Coalition, quoting an adviser who said the audit contained “problematic areas”. Cameron promised to publish this afternoon, but Miliband went on, and on, and on. When Cameron publishes this document, Miliband will look very stupid for harping on about it for so long. Cameron pointed out that maybe Miliband was focusing on this because of a lack of other points to talk about. He has a point. Precisely what can Labour boast, or criticise? Yes, there are some broken promises (too many, as far as I’m concerned) but Labour has offered nothing. They promised a “fully costed deficit reduction plan” – have we seen one? Have we even had a glimpse at what such a plan might contain? Not even close to it. Any efforts to pin Labour down to how they would fund their many expensive projects, falls to a “bankers tax”. Where is their plan for the new tuition fee policy that has been promised? How would they have fostered growth in Britain? When they criticise the 1% increase in benefits, do they explain how they would go about funding any further increases? They criticise the first proper effort at transparency this government has gone to: I, for one, and I’m sure in the company of many, will applaud this Government for making efforts to be clear as to what has been achieved and what hasn’t been, as well as detailing how they will be resolving or achieving other goals.
In a time when our politicians brazenly walk into the House of Commons and lie to one another, and us, it’s staggering, shocking and generally incredible that any government, let alone one with a history for reneging on promises that were important to them, would make such an effort to be so clear about precisely what is going on in Westminster.
Ed Miliband said that Cameron was “less convincing” the more he “blustered”. Well, Mr. Miliband, one thing is quite clear: there was no blustering and Cameron was quite convincing. The Conservatives have many failings, but Miliband and Labour barely touched upon any today. He needs to work harder, because today’s show from the Leader of the Opposition was, frankly, not good enough.