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18 April 2012

PMQs review: the Budget hands Miliband an easy win

Cameron is still unable to defend much of his Chancellor's Budget.

By George Eaton

The first PMQs since the Budget was, unsurprisingly, an easy win for Ed Miliband. David Cameron struggled to defend his decision to cut the 50p tax rate and quickly attempted to change the subject to unemployment, which fell by 35,000 (0.1 per cent) in the last quarter. But as the PM admitted later in the session, unemployment remains “far too high” – today’s figures were nothing to boast about. Cameron’s intervention merely gifted Miliband another opportunity to brand him as “out-of-touch”. As he said, figures that show more than one million young people unemployed are no cause for celebration.

From then on, every time the Labour leader raised an unpopular measure from the calamitous Budget [“even people within Downing Street calling it an ‘omnishambles,'” he quipped] – the 50p tax cut, “the granny tax”, “the charity tax” – the PM turned to the subject of Ken Livingstone’s tax avoidance. But while this story is disastrous for Livingstone, it has done little damage to Miliband. It did, however, highlight just how valuable Cameron believes the re-election of Boris Johnson would be for the Tories. A victory for Johnson would overshadow all of the disasters of the last month.

Perhaps the most significant moment came when Miliband branded George Osborne a “part-time” Chancellor – the first time he’s used this line. “I wonder which job he’s doing today, Mr Speaker?”, he asked, a reference to Osborne’s dual-role as Chancellor and the Tories’ chief election strategist. Aware of how damaging this charge is, Cameron looked furious. If it sticks, Osborne could be permanently damaged.

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