Ed Balls’ face said it all. Serious, sombre, stoical. What substance he has, what fortitude. He really has the gravel to face the worst.
Yes, the employment figures were in and they were catastrophic. So wholly and voluptuously positive that If you had instructed your statistician to come up with a Balls-crushing statistic and he’d produced this you would have said: “Steady, we want to be a little bit credible.”
The very morning of PMQs heralded the biggest quarterly rise in employment since the Norman Conquest.
Ed Miliband began a line of questions with the words “today’s welcome fall in unemployment” and prompted the longest, uninterrupted barrage of Tory artillery we’ve had for many years.
A welcome fall, he said. Welcome.
Was that an accurate account of his feelings when he heard the news? Did his spirit actually lift? Did an involuntary, “Thank God,” escape his lips?
The Tories thought not, and voiced their feelings in a long roar of happy, angry triumph. The Speaker let the Labour leader face it alone, that Total Roar is currently beyond his reach.
If articulated it would be rendered as: “You little freak, you think that only the state, only the Government, only YOU have the power to get an economy going. Only YOU can get people working by splashing tax payers’ cash about. Well you were WRONG and the reason we’re so happy is that we were terrified you might have been right. But you WEREN’T! And WE WERE! So SHUT UP!”
“Just braying like that doesn’t do anyone any good,” Miliband said. I suspect anyone of a Conservative disposition would have made allowances.
Real wages have started to rise but they’re still lagging. What happens when – if – they do outstrip inflation? Will the altruistic Eds “welcome” that? Will they happily fight an election on a fuel price freeze and two new banks, while celebrating the Tory achievements in employment, wages and reducing the deficit?
PS: The Speaker has – since yesterday – dropped his arch manner. He was calling people in a sensible, professional, unaffected way. When he chastised the House saying, “This is questions to the Prime Minister not a Punch and Judy show,” he directed his disapproval at the Labour side.
What a mutant he is.
The temptation will be the way he calls Andrew Selou (hitherto pronounced “Androo S’loooooo?”). He will deserve a cheer if he can play that with a straight bat.