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Published on November 27th, 2013 | by Oliver Campbell
Image ©

Ed Miliband at the Global Investment Conference, hosted by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and organised by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI); 22 February 2010.

Prime Minister’s Questions: Miliband Bounces Back

Fake moustache’s, terrible jokes and the word ‘crap’ made this weeks Prime Minister’s Questions seem more like a pantomime act than a session of serious political debate. However despite the pettiness of last weeks PMQs again making an appearance (Check out David Cameron’s pun on the Robbie Williams song ‘Angels’), this week’s debate between the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition covered a range of important issues.

Ed Miliband began by asking David Cameron about his government’s apparent u-turn on payday loans. He asked:

“Why has he (the Prime Minister) moved in two short months from believing that intervening in broken markets is living…in a Marxist universe, to believing it is a solemn duty of government?”

Ed Miliband has long been a critic of payday loans, describing how payday loan firms such as Wonga are “running riot through our communities”; a point easily justified once looking at the interest rates these firms offer. Until recently though, the coalition government stated that a cap on payday loans was not needed. However two days ago they changed their position, with George Osbourne announcing that a cap would be implemented.

David Cameron defended his government’s move by remarking how Labour did nothing to combat payday loans in the 13 years they were in power. However this is ignoring the fact that the rapid growth of the payday loans industry is a relatively recent phenomenon. Cameron’s response therefore did little to explain his government’s sudden change of direction, hinting that it was a move sparked by pressure from Labour.

Ed Miliband then moved to link his payday loan question with Labour’s energy price freeze, asking how if the government can freeze credit, then why is freezing energy bills dismissed as being communist? He stated how this u-turn shows that the government had experienced an ‘‘intellectual collapse’’, after realising that they were on the “wrong side of public opinion”. This was a smart move by the Labour leader as polls indicate that the public do not trust the energy companies, with 63% supporting a price freeze.  Miliband’s policy therefore may be open to criticism, however in aligning Labour with these popular policies his party seem increasingly strong.

The coalition government remains sound on the economy, and it is important to note that yet again Labour avoided asking any questions on this topic. However it is also hard to ignore the leniency that David Cameron seems to give to the energy companies. The Prime Minister continually emphasises the need to cut green levies in order to solve the problem; however what he doesn’t react to is the fact that the energy companies experienced an increase in profits by 77% in the last year alone.

Ed Miliband then went on to ask David Cameron how was he going to make sure that there would be less winter deaths this year compared with last year. The Prime Minister’s response, as is so common, pointed towards failures under the previous Labour government, however he still refuses to accept the huge impact that the energy price rise will have.

The leader of the opposition therefore came out of today’s debate the strongest, helped greatly by the lack of a clear answer on energy prices from Cameron. However it was also down to Miliband successfully arguing that they are the party forcing David Cameron to react to the apparent ‘cost of living crisis’, as seen in the u-turn on payday loans. Labour are therefore beginning to be painted as a proactive party that increasingly represents the voice of the people.

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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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