PMQs Verdict: Labour’s enemies of inspiration

"The messengers have gone but the message is still the same." David Cameron was addressing the shrivelled ranks of Labour MPs sat before him. To be honest, it was difficult to disagree.

Since the last prime minister's questions, Labour has lost the election, their leader and almost any hope of winning a majority again in five years time.

And yet listening to today's session you might have assumed that the last month hadn't happened.

Labour's interim leader Harriet Harman devoted most of her questions to criticising the previous government's record on housebuilding and home ownership, before moving on to questions about child benefit and tax credits.

These are all very important issues, but if Labour had any chance of gaining ground on them, then they would have done so during the election. By repeating the same old lines, Harman appeared like a Japanese soldier still stuck on a Pacific Island, refusing to believe that the enemy had won the war.

To be fair, there was a similar sense of deja vu about the prime minister's performance. Just as before the election, Cameron refused to give any straight answers to the questions he was asked.  Just as before the election, Cameron devoted all his answers to asking questions of the opposition leader instead.

But while it may be a blunt axe, it's an axe that remains in one piece. And when the prime minister has just presided over such a decisive election victory, there is little motivation for Cameron to ever take it back to the sharpening block.

The biggest obstacle to Labour's victory last month was Labour's lack of public trust on the economy and Miliband himself. Labour has managed to shed the latter, but have not even begun to get rid of the former.

Cameron's main task now is to make sure that Labour fail to win back that credibility. And it was to this purpose that he devoted almost all of his comments today.

"They've learned absolutely nothing. They're still the party of more spending, more welfare and more debt," he jeered, before labelling them the "enemies of aspiration".

Strictly speaking, this is meaningless. You can no more be an enemy of aspiration than you can be a friend of laziness. The word "aspiration" is almost devoid of any concrete meaning. Yet in the largely policy-free arena that constitutes Labour's leadership contest, the party's friendliness towards this meaningless term has so far been the only question up for debate.

But while Labour may be spending their time talking about aspiration there is so far very little evidence of it on the Labour benches. Although rarely that animated, Labour MPs today looked almost universally glum, with only a handful of new members showing any detectable signs of life.

This may all change once Labour elect a new leader, but right now both Harman and her party seem devoid of ambition, enthusiasm or inspiration. They may not be the enemies of aspiration, but on a personal level they don't seem on particularly friendly terms with it either.