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31 October 2012

PMQs review: Miliband struggles to convince

The Labour leader failed to get the better of Cameron over the EU budget.

By George Eaton

With Lib Dem and Tory ministers at war over wind farms, Michael Heseltine attacking the government for its lack of a growth strategy, and David Cameron facing a backbench rebellion over the EU budget, today’s PMQs should have been an easy win for Ed Miliband. But, for the first time in weeks, the Labour leader struggled to land a blow.

Miliband challenged Cameron’s refusal to support a real-terms cut in the EU budget , but with little conviction. Indeed, one wondered if he was entirely convinced by his party’s new stance. After Cameron angrily declared that the nation would “see through” Labour’s position, Miliband quipped, “It’s good to see the crimson tide back”, but the line, last used the previous week, fell painfully flat. Instead it was Cameron who was greeted by cheers from his MPs as he vowed to use the UK’s veto to block an above-inflation increase in the EU budget. His question – would Miliband really veto a freeze in the budget? – was an apposite one.

After chosing to split his questions, Miliband fared better when he turned to Heseltine’s report. The confusion over the government’s wind farms policy allowed him to highlight the former deputy prime minister’s demand for a “definitive and unambiguous” energy policy, and Cameron’s eventual retort – “he’s no Michael Heseltine” – rather missed the point. But even in this instance, Miliband’s long-winded questions meant the PM rarely looked uncomfortable. “I’m rather enjoying this, Mr Speaker,” said Miliband at one point. But as with much of what he said today, one wasn’t convinced.

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