Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
9 October 2013

PMQs review: Cameron is still struggling to respond to Miliband’s price freeze

The PM variously dismissed the policy as "a gimmick", as "left-wing" and "socialist" and as unnecessary when he is taking action: he needs to settle on an attack line.

By George Eaton

After criticism of a lack of follow-through after his “one nation” address last year, Ed Miliband made it clear that he has learned from this error by devoting every one of his questions at PMQs to his energy price freeze. Cameron’s acknowledgement on Monday that the policy had “struck a chord” gave him an easy way in and he wittily contrasted the PM’s response with George Osborne’s comparison of Labour’s plans to Das Kapital: “Is it a good idea or a communist plot?”

The subsequent exchanges showed that, two weeks on from Miliband’s conference speech, Cameron still isn’t sure how to respond to the price freeze. He variously dismissed it as “a gimmick”, as “left-wing” and “socialist” (adding, in case it wasn’t clear, that Miliband inhabits a “Marxist universe”) and as unnecessary when he is already putting customers on the lowest energy tariff (a measure that Miliband said would benefit just 10% of households).

A more promising line of attack came when Cameron took aim at Miliband’s record as Energy Secretary and declared that the “rules and regulations” he introduced had pushed up prices. In a hint of action to come in the Autumn Statement, he said that the government was going to “go through” and see which it could remove. But with households paying £300 more since 2010 (as Miliband observed), this line will only prove effective once Cameron outlines what measures the governmment will repeal and how this will bring down prices.

Until then, Miliband remains on the front foot. At no other PMQs since he became leader has a policy he announced so dominated the debate. If Cameron wants to persuade the public that he “gets it”, he would be wise to drop the “Red Ed” attacks. As I’ve pointed out before, if Miliband is a socialist, so are most voters. Polls show that around two-thirds of the public support a 50p tax rate, a mansion tax, stronger workers’ rights, a living wage and the renationalisation of the railways and the privatised utilities. By branding Miliband a “socialist” and a “Marxist”, Cameron only ensures that voters will be pleasantly surprised by his moderation.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
Look at the person, not the CV
Powering careers that secure our net zero future
Harnessing breakthrough thinking

Topics in this article :