Ed Miliband channelled Ronald Reagan as he used PMQs to push the prime minister on living standards – the issue likely to be the main battleground of the next election.
He put horsemeat to one side to ask David Cameron if living standards would be higher or lower at the end of the Parliament.
The prime minister is vulnerable on the issue given the stagnating economy and cuts to benefits and public spending. He retorted that people would be better off than they would have been under Labour.
But his reply that 24m people would see a tax cut was not exactly convincing: the rise in the income tax threshold towards £10,000 does not negate the much bigger cuts to living standards elsewhere – for example through changes to benefits or tax credits.
Miliband pressed on, saying that the prime minister was out of touch and was ignoring OBR figures suggesting people would be worse off in 2015.
Would the prime minister admit that his policies were to blame for the flat-lining economy, he carried on.
At this point Cameron could only grasp at lower inflation as a piece of good news.
The Labour leader pressed home his point, asking (yet again) why the coalition was giving a tax cut to the richest in society via the reduction in the income tax top rate from 50p to 45p. He questioned the idea that the Tories were “no longer the party of privilege”, pointing out that Cameron recently auctioned a portrait of himself at the Tory winter ball for £100,000.
But Cameron was not out for the count, sardonically observing that he had read that Miliband would be delivering a major speech on the economy tomorrow – except it would have no policies in it. The riposte cuts to the core of the case against Labour; that it has offered no genuine alternative vision of how it would govern Britain.
Cameron reminded the Labour leader that Jon Cruddas, who is heading the party’s policy review, recently said there was no point opposing everything without having an alternative. To this Miliband still does not have a great answer.