Ed Miliband stood today at Prime Minister’s Questions, and when he did so a great roar went up. Unsettlingly for him, perhaps, as much of that noise came from the Government’s benches as from his own. Even before he had said a word, Tory MPs were yelling “more!” at him, in a volley of shouting that went on for longer than perhaps was decent.
It has not been an easy few days for the Leader of the Opposition. Since the Chancellor delivered his Budget speech last week, some rather nasty things have been happening. Labour’s lead in the polls had previously been running at a healthy 5-9 points—but a post-Budget YouGov poll in the Sunday Times showed that the lead had collapsed to a single point. The psephological maestros of YouGov made clear that the poll was only a single result and that the Labour lead could open up again. But is has not. Osborne’s Budget, it seems, has devoured Ed’s lead.
This was perhaps why Miliband went in search of safe ground today at PMQs, returning to the theme of energy price freezes, a subject that served him well in the winter. SSE, the energy provider, said today that it would freeze prices until 2016 and Ed wondered whether the PM regarded this as a “Communist plot”—this had been Cameron’s reaction when Ed had suggested freezes. The PM replied that Miliband had not read the small print and that SSE had said it could only freeze prices because of the Government’s decisions on the economy. The Government benches loved this, shouting “weak!” at Miliband. “He’s not Prime Minister,” retorted Ed, “he’s a PR man for the energy companies.”
The same arguments on the economy, inflation, inequality and history came and went, before drawing to their conclusion with Cameron shouting at Miliband that he had “no plan and increasingly no future.” The house roared. So went the theatrics.
Ed Miliband has a problem, one that has been amplified by the relative success of George Osborne’s budget. It stems from the great assumption of Miliband’s leadership, which has been that the Government’s plan on the economy was going to fail. But this assumption has been proven wrong. The economy has not collapsed as he and Ed Balls predicted. The triple dip recession did not come and unemployment did not spike.
This means that Ed has been robbed of the single over-arching…