Thursday, 9 June 2011

Being Leader of the Opposition isn't easy, you know...

So everyone agrees, from the left-leaning New Statesman to Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail, that yesterday's performance from Ed Miliband (above) at Prime Minister's Questions was a disaster.

The Government is mired in so many u-turns it's practically spinning like a top. Easier sentencing for people who admit their crimes? No, they're running away from that. Top-slicing education budgets to pay for new Academies? Er, no, sorry, they've thought again. Giving GP consortia control of the NHS budget? Hmm. No, they've listened and they're just going to recreate Primary Care Trusts with a different name.

But could Ed land a blow? Not a bit of it. He flailed at thin air. Have a watch, if you can bear it.

It's important to say that PMQs isn't everything and that, from a historical perspective, it often hasn't mattered that much. Wilson skewered poor Alec Douglas-Home nearly every week in 1963-64. Wilson dominated Heath at the despatch box in the late 1960s, his analytical mind allowing him to pull facts out of nowhere. Go back to Callaghan versus Thatcher between 1976 and 1979. Callaghan just managed to out-point the Lady most weeks, mobilising a home-spun avuncular normality that his prissy-sounding opponent couldn't match.

More recently, Hague made even Labour MPs laugh as he lampooned Tony Blair week after week. Michael Howard wasn't bad either.

What happened? With the exception of Wilson in 1964, they all lost the subsequent General Election. Even Wilson managed a paltry overall majority of three.

So Ed doesn't need to worry about PMQs alone. It's the image of his party with relatively conservative English voters, and his party's chronic inability to raise money from anyone but the trade unions, that should really keep him up at night. But that's another story...

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