It was an interesting decision by Ed Miliband not to ask David Cameron about Fred Goodwin’s knighthood today, especially when he could have pushed the PM into the uncomfortable position of calling for other bankers to lose their titles. That possibly reflects a growing sense of unease, as voiced by Alistair Darling this morning, that one individual may have been unfairly singled out in a politically-motivated attack.
Instead, the Labour leader developed his theme of unfairness at the top of society, calling on the prime minister to implement the suggestions of the Walker review and ensure that banks have to disclose how many people they employ who earn over £1m a year.
The legislation to make this possible was passed under the last Labour government and with cross-party support, Miliband pointed out, why wouldn’t the PM enact it?
The prime minister was well briefed: he pointed out that the Walker review recommended that such a move should be made by all European countries at the same time. But still, the issue forced him onto the defensive, and even more so when Miliband then challenged him to back Labour’s idea of having an employee on remuneration committees.
Again, Cameron had a cogent response: the government wouldn’t do this because it undermined the principle that everyone on a pay committee also has their pay set by the committee. But again, it was the Labour leader setting the pace.
As he did last week, Miliband split his questions, and used his second set to ask about the NHS. The debate followed very much along the lines of last week’s, although with an effective rhetorical flourish as Miliband read out a long list of professional groups and after each one, Labour MPs shouted “against the bill!”.
Another effective performance by the opposition leader, but it will have been in vain if what people choose to focus on is what happened in the second half of the session.
One by one, Tory MPs stood up to ask planted questions about the benefits cap, which comes to the Commons again today, and is an area of particular vulnerability for the Labour party. With opposition MPs still waiting to find out if they would be told to vote with their own peers and against the government on this highly popular measure, Cameron repeatedly embarrassed them by asking them to nod if they would be following his side through the lobbies when the vote is taken tonight. As the PM said out loud: “Answer came there none.”
Miliband is on the right side of public opinion on high pay and the NHS: he just has to hope that the TV news tonight focuses on those issues, and not welfare.