Ed Miliband and David Cameron walk through the Central Lobby after listening to the Queen's Speech on June 4, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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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.
 

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.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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