Miliband vs Cameron: Round three

Poorest will suffer from housing benefit cut, Labour warns
Poorest will suffer from housing benefit cut, Labour warns

By Ian Dunt

Ed Miliband and David Cameron have gone head to head for their third PMQs, after both leaders chalking up a win from their previous encounters.

Most observers considered today's round a draw, meaning the two men are even after three weeks.

The debate focused on government plans to reform housing benefit, with Mr Miliband doing his best to exacerbate tensions between the Tory and Lib Dem coalition partners.

Parliamentary observers were taken aback by how quickly and efficiently the Labour leader took on Cameron in the first session following conference season. That win was barely noticed in the mainstream media however, with the ongoing saga of the Chilean miners dominating headlines and news bulletins.

Last week the prime minister delivered a far more robust and challenging performance, aided by a chorus of support from the benches behind him, which comprehensively beat the opposition leader. That win went similarly unnoticed due to the spending review which came after it.

The Times this morning carried a leaked memo from the Labour camp - the second this week - in which Mr Miliband was advised to use "mocking humour" to take on Mr Cameron.

The memo argues that beating the prime minister is easy and simply requires that Mr Miliband make him look "evasive".

Earlier this week an internal Labour memo printed by the Times admitted the party had no detail to its economic strategy.

Meanwhile, the new Labour leader finally earned the support of Peter Mandelson, who warned the party not to desert the political central ground - a comment which was interpreted as an attack on the younger Miliband brother.

"I'm sorry that my words were represented as a personal attack on Ed. I didn't intend that," he told the Today programme this morning.

"I was not worried at the time, and I'm not worried now, about his personal qualities and his strength of personality, but, above all, the job of a political leader is to present an electoral strategy to his party that is winning and to succeed.

"And I wasn't making this observation only in relation to Ed Miliband. You need to put together an electoral strategy that combines the centre and the left.

"You need to appeal to middle England... and that puts the right emphasis on economic competence and efficiency as well as social justice.

"If you ask me what my score card is for the leader of the opposition, I would say that he's got off to a good start."


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