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Published on October 23rd, 2013 | by Oliver Campbell
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Prime Minister’s Questions: The Great Divide

In today’s Prime Minister’s Questions it was the energy problem that once again took centre stage, the discussion driving a wedge further between the two parties. The heated nature of today’s debate highlighted this. Not only was Ed Balls seemingly caught on repeat like a broken record saying ‘Calm down’ in the Prime Ministers direction, but the speaker, John Berkow, had to intervene, telling Cameron to stop using the ‘unparliamentary’ phrase of referring to Miliband as a ‘conman’.

However the most dramatic event of today’s session of PMQs was when David Cameron revealed that he had a copy of Labour’s backbenchers briefing, and began dissecting its content. First up was Question 6: ‘What would stop energy companies rising prices before the freeze?’. The answer Cameron exclaimed being nothing. Then question 5: ‘How will you stop companies just increasing prices once the freeze ends?’, this time the answer being that the public would take a dim view. However the Prime Minister saved the best till last with question 9: ‘Ed Miliband was the energy secretary in the last government, isn’t he to blame for the rising bills?’. To which Cameron stated ‘we all know the answer, and the answer is yes’.

Damning stuff from the Prime Minister then, however despite this scathing attack, David Cameron also came under fire, as he seemed to make a complete u turn on party policy. In the lead up to the previous election, the Conservative party frequently described how people should ‘vote blue to go green’. This came after a logo change in 2006, which Tim Montgomorie explained as showing how David Cameron was ‘trying to communicate in terms of a more environmentally-friendly party’. Today though the Prime Minister had clearly changed his tune declaring that the rising energy prices needed to be tackled by rolling ‘back the green regulations’ that were implemented by the previous energy secretary, Ed Miliband.  However these regulations were actually supported by Cameron at the time, therefore showing a clear change of party policy in relation to green energy.

Crucially as well this U-turn is one that has been created by Labour Party pressure emanating from their price freeze promise. Last week Cameron argued that more competition in the market and energy tariff changes were the solutions to the energy price problem. However today he went even further, stating that he believed in ‘intervening in the energy market’.  Therefore despite Labour’s price freeze suffering a number of significant blows today; it has pushed the Conservatives towards taking firmer action against the issue of energy prices.

This weeks Prime Minister’s Questions has therefore emphasised how David Cameron did not react fast enough to counter the problem of energy prices. Perhaps more importantly though it highlights how the Conservative party are now distancing themselves from their green image. This is important as it shows how like the Labour Party, the Tories are seemingly trying to implement policies based around its core ethos. Labour did this by promising a freeze on energy prices (a move deemed to link to their socialist roots with Miliband cementing himself as ‘Red Ed’), while the Conservatives have tried to attack the idealised ‘undeserving poor’ in their benefits policy and move away from green energy commitments. The wedge is therefore driving both parties further away from each other on the political spectrum and is why the next election will be an intriguing affair.

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About the Author

Oliver Campbell

Oliver is from Harrow and has just graduated from the University of Leicester with a degree in History. He is now volunteering at Catch21 Productions and is particularly interested in welfare policy and the influence of the media.

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