Today’s PMQs' quick-worded duelling focused on the debate surrounding Europe. The prime minister is in a sticky spot on the continental issue due to the divide amongst the ranks in his own party; and even more so after a recent report found that 56% of Brits want to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership with the supranational power. This Friday, David Cameron is expected to announce plans of a referendum on Britain’s status amongst the Brussels based elite.
Ed Miliband tried to capitalise on the open wounds of disenfranchised eurosceptic Conservative MPs on the European debate. He pushed forward doubts on the prime minister’s competency on the dates for when a referendum would be good for the British economy.
The leader of the opposition quoted the renowned europhile, Michael Heseltine, on the matter: “To commit to a referendum about a negotiation that hasn't begun, on a timescale you cannot predict, on an outcome that's unknown, where Britain's appeal as an inward investment market would be the centre of the debate, seems to me like an unnecessary gamble."
However, after making such a claim, Miliband was asked by Cameron what he would do instead, to which he replied: “we need to move from austerity to jobs.” This was a rather damaging mistake for the shadow leader, and such a statement saw his trustworthiness plunge into the isolated water of the murky depths of socialist utopia. By criticising the European austerity model – something Labour does not oppose domestically, considering his speech to the anti-cut TUC march last October – Miliband showed a rather naive economic agenda.
The PM won this round. The Labour party lacked substance on key issues, and this was highlighted by the lack of ink in their manifesto book, and although that is not unusual for an opposition at the mid-way moment, it is starting to hurt their credibility nonetheless. For Labour to turn things around soon they would need to be able to come up with answers on the key issues, a view voiced by Nick Clegg, who says: “The Labour leadership continue to complain about the coalition’s approach, but without providing any credible alternative. They’re learning the tricks of opposition and finding their rhetorical refrains. But where are the numbers? What are their sums? The country has undergone the biggest economic crisis in living memory, yet they offer no explanation of how they’d get us out of this mess, nor any admission of responsibility for their part in creating it.”