Ed Miliband had some good lines ready for today’s prime minister’s questions. He decided to focus on youth unemployment, which recently topped 1 million people for the first time since records began.
Sensibly, he focused on long-term youth unemployment (over 12 months out of work, which is now at 260,000 people): both because Cameron would probably misinterpret the question and try to answer on overall youth unemployment (he did), and because the longer young people stay out of work, the harder it is for them to get back into the jobs market when the economy recovers.
Miliband decided to focus on the effect of scrapping Labour’s Future Jobs Fund, but Cameron was able to bat that away by referring to the Work Programme:
The Work Programme is helping 50 per cent more people… The waiting time for young people will be half the waiting time under the Future Jobs Fund… The absolute key is because we are paying by results, the Work Programme will help those who most need it. We have scrapped [the FJF] and replaced it with something better.
This, plus the fact that youth unemployment has been rising since 2004, helped the PM’s case. It should not deflect from a recent spike in the number of 16-24 year olds out of work (I will blog on this later), but Miliband failed to mention this.
Instead, the Labour leader went back to the bank bonus tax, calling on the PM to use it “to create 100,000 more jobhs for young people”.
That allowed Cameron his killer blow:
That is another use for the bank bonus tax. There have been nine uses for it already: higher tax credits, giving child benefits to the highest earners, cutting the deficit, spending on public services, more money for the regional growth fund, turning empty shops into community centres, higher public spending….
It is possible that I missed a couple, but this is only seven, and with higher public spending repeated (which surely encompasses every other suggestion anyway). But the point was made, and what’s more it tapped into a deeper suspicion in the minds of many voters: that Labour is making promises it can’t afford. I’m sure there will be a Labour response to tell us why the PM was skewing the facts, but his attack certainly worked in the chamber.
In response, Ed Miliband’s repeated attacks that Cameron is out of touch and will blame ABC – anyone but Cameron – felt well-used and flat.
Somehow, on an issue that could cause real problems for this government, Miliband lost the argument.