The row over changes to the planning system has been both angry and loud, polarising opinion in a stark manner. On the one hand we have George Osborne, the DCLG, business lobbying groups and the property industry, all of which back the new National Planning Policy Framework.
Lined up against them are charities including the CPRE, Friends of the Earth and National Trust, who fear that the document – with its presumption for sustainable development - could provide a carte blanche for a wave of ugly developments across the countryside.
On the day after George Osborne admitted that he had recently lowered his short-term growth expectations, and with a row currently waging over the government’s wish to scrap the popular 50p top rate of income tax, Ed Miliband might have been expected to use the first PMQs after the summer to attack David Cameron on the economy.
But instead, we found ourselves in two rather old arguments, about police numbers and NHS waiting lists. While both are undoubtedly important subjects, somehow the debate felt a bit off-topic.
The reason for Miliband avoiding the big issue of the day became apparent later in the session, when the prime minister was asked by a Labour backbencher about the 50p rate and replied:
The person responsible for Labour’s economic policy at the last election said that they had no credibility whatsoever.
He was referring to Alistair Darling, Labour’s former chancellor, whose memoirs published this week describe a 2009 pre-Budget report whose creation was so chaotic and disunified that it resulted in a complete mess of an economic policy.
I provided a link earlier today to Philip Stephens’ scoop on the Sir Gus O’Donnell memo asking for potential stimulus measures to have on standby if the economy deteriorates.
At this morning’s Downing Street press conference there was a hint that the memo had not gone down very well with senior cabinet ministers: