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PMQs review: Miliband targets incompetence, but the momentum is with Cameron

The PM believes the wind is blowing his way - and some in Labour fear he is right.
 

The PM believes the wind is blowing his way - and some in Labour fear he is right.
Ed Miliband and David Cameron walk through the Central Lobby after listening to the Queen's Speech on June 4, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.

If not quite presented with an open goal (in a PMQs replete with World Cup references), Ed Miliband had no shortage of targets this week. He started by taking aim at the government over the Birmingham schools scandal, demanding to know: "If there is a serious question at their school, where do they [parents] go to get it sorted?" Cameron replied that while the failings were unacceptable, they shouldn't be used "to try to knock down successful school formats". But Miliband made a convincing case for a third way between local authority control and Gove's anarchic model, declaring of Cameron: "He has no answer on this question of accountability because it isn’t realistic to do it centrally and Ofsted inspections aren’t going to do the job."

From here, he moved on to the passport backlog row and accused Theresa May of "fighting with the Education Secretary but not paying attention to the business of government". The Tories are always at their most vulnerable when attacked for incompetence, rather than wickedness, and Miliband's line of attack was a smart one. Tellingly, while May shook her head and said "nonsense" as he spoke, Gove remained motionless.

But Cameron had saved his trump card till the end. After Miliband failed to mention today's unemployment figures, which show joblessness at a five-year low of 6.6 per cent (although wage growth is still below inflation at 0.7 per cent), he roared: "He’s absolutely allergic to good news because he knows that as the economy gets stronger, he gets weaker." The sense that the momentum is with Cameron was enhanced by the answer he gave when asked by Labour's Mike Kane if he should be calling Roy Hodgson for some tips on "team discipline".

He replied:

I wouldn't want to offer Roy too much advic,  but what I would say about this government ...We've had the same Chancellor for four years and we've got record growth in this country. We've had the same Home Secretary for four years and we've had record falls of crime in the country. We've had the same Education Secretary and we've got 250,000 fewer children in failing schools. I say, if you've got a strong team, with a strong plan, stick with the team, stick with the plan and keep on putting it in the back of the net.

The answer roused the Tory benches, who cried "more, more!" ("four-nil!" one MP added) and a beaming Cameron turned to his party with pride. The answer all but confirmed that Osborne, Gove and May will remain in their posts in the forthcoming reshuffle ("stick with the team") and served as confirmation that Cameron believes the wind is blowing his way. The problem for Miliband is the increasing number in Labour who think he is right.