Ed Miliband took to the despatch box today and squared up to David Cameron – who gave Left Foot Forward a special mention – for his first PMQs since being elected as leader of the Labour party. And after some early formalities, Miliband immediately began to attack the Government over the handling of its child benefit policy:
“Let’s be honest, the Chancellor sits there, this policy has been a shambles from day one. The rest of the cabinet knew nothing about it, the local government secretary said he had found out from the media that it was being announced, the children’s minister, I can’t see him, he went on the run because he was too scared to defend the policy.
“I bet the Prime Minister wishes the BBC blackout had gone ahead it was such a shambles, his conference.”
This was Miliband’s swift response to Cameron’s criticism of Labour; in particular that it offered “no alternative”. The prime minister cited Miliband’s July interview with Left Foot Forward, and taunted the new Leader of the Opposition:
“He said in July this year, ‘Whoever is the Labour leader will be that the time of the spending review have to shadow they have an alternative plan’. Where is the alternative plan?
“This was a speech he made to an organisation called Left Foot Forward, could I suggest he puts both of his left feet forward and tell us what the plan is?”
Other highlights of the exchange included Miliband mocking Cameron’s preposterous “Cameron Direct” events – one such event held in Bolton, where the prime minister promised to defend child benefit as it was. Miliband demonstrated early confidence, mocking the prime minister for evading his questions:
“That’s naught out of two on straight answers, straight answers to straight questions.”
Another well-timed joke saw Miliband turn the prime minister’s tactic of answering questions with another question back onto him:
“I’m new to this game, but I ask the questions and he should answer them.”
Although it did not represent a comprehensive victory for Miliband, it would have certainly eased any remaining fears people may have had that he wasn’t up to the task.