PMQs SKETCH: No More Ladies’ Tennis

What very different reactions to PMQs. Some scored it all Miliband’s way, I gave it half and half, sophisticated pollsters registered everything in between and at either end.

It was, we can agree, less like the Ladies’ tennis we’ve been seeing lately.

Shouty Dave? Perhaps – but then the Speaker organises it that way by letting Labour barrack more loudly. Clever Ed’s cunning questions? Possibly – but there’s still no getting past the comedy teeth and the looming lips.

Ed claimed a consensus on the need to recoup cash from energy company profits – his price freeze or John Major’s windfall tax. John Major who had won a majority, unlike the prime minister. Laughter. Labour resurgent.

Cameron bounced back with his own plan – he was going to scrap green levies. Roaring Tories. Labour jeers. Wasp-swallowing from the Lib Dem leaders. And as for John Major – yes, he did win a majority against a weak and ridiculous leader. Labour spirits slump at the memory, or the possibly at the prospect.

But Miliband was reacting to the argument, and not getting lost in the maul. “I’ll tell you what’s weak,” he went. And “When I was energy secretary bills went down!” And a variation on out-of-touch – “Ordinary people who he will never meet”. Cameron might have said, “that should be ‘whom’, I think, shouldn’t it?” And nor did he say, “See YOU in a working men’s club!”

He did find himself saying that people must be helped to pay their energy bills (that really was weak), but was able to brandish Labour’s briefing to backbenchers on their Leader’s price freeze. “What will stop energy companies putting their prices up again when the freeze finishes?” The public, apparently, taking a dim view of it.

Cameron called the price freeze the work of “a conman”. The Speaker intervened eventually and ruled it unparliamentary. As opposed to “Liar” – a term he took some pains and preparation last year to allow.

Organising opinions are drifting up through the Price Freeze facts. The green levies don’t add up to much, and most of them were passed by the Coalition.

On the other hand, the Big Six situation was created by Labour through their instinctual aversion to and ignorance of competitive markets.

The Labour downside: a prospect of Ed’s price freeze ramps up prices before the election and makes them look even less competent. The Tory flaw: the popularity of bashing big companies makes Cameron act like a leftie.

Maybe it’s like the Iran-Iraq war wherein both sides lose.

NB: a Zero-hours claim. There are the same number of zero-hour contracts now as in the year 2000. But they increased by 75 per cent in the last half of Labour’s reign.



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