It may have seemed like a throwaway comment but there was method behind Ed Miliband’s insult towards David Cameron during prime minister’s questions yesterday:
The prime minister may act like he is born to rule but the problem is he is not very good at it”.
In recent years Labour have on several occasions targeted the privileged upbringing of the Tory front bench, many of whom went to public school and/or are millionaires. The tactic didn’t work in the Crewe & Nantwich by-election, where the use of Labour activists dressed in top hats came across as puerile. Nor was it hugely effective in the general election, when Lord Mandelson (himself patrician by manner) accused Cameron of “looking down his rather toffee nose” and Gordon Brown tried to play up his values as being “ordinary middle class” from an “ordinary town“.
You may have thought that Labour had under Ed Miliband decided to go easy on class-based attacks on the Tories in recent months. Not so. They just intend to be rather more subtle about it.
I’m told that private polling on behalf of the opposition party has found that criticising Cameron for being “born to rule” has chimed with the public.
“Expect to hear much more of this in the months to come,” says one senior member of the shadow cabinet. That person admits that the Crewe top hat tactics were a failure as they were too “crude“. “Back then no one was listening to us, now it may be a rather different matter,” he calculates.
Of course Labour will not trumpet its own millionaire frontbencher (Shaun Woodward) or the fact that its director of communications is married to a multi-millionaire.