After 18 months in the doldrums Ed Miliband at last came up with a successful strategy today for taking on the Government — munching on millionaires.
It may seem odd that the leader of the Labour Party has taken so long to remember its history but that only goes to show how deep Lord Mandelson’s “relaxation” with the filthy rich had sunk its roots.
But having successfully snacked on Stephen Hester over the weekend and gorged on Fred Goodwin yesterday, Ed clearly had the taste as he popped into the House of Commons for what turned out to be a lunchtime feast at Prime Ministers Questions.
Having stared at them across the Chamber since the General Election, Ed finally came up with the collective noun for the Coalition Cabinet that has been escaping him for months: millionaires.
Someone somewhere on the Labour team had remembered a fascinating fact which appeared and then disappeared after the election — that almost everyone sitting around the Cabinet table has more than a Hester-sized slice in the bank.
Standing up to face the head millionaire, otherwise known as the Prime Minister, Ed, buoyed up by giving Dave a good kicking in the loose change over the banks and Europe, was cheered so loudly by his side that he looked around to see who else had come in.
But he was the hero as he demanded Dave follow up on his pre-election pledge to name all those in the banks who would be trousering at least a million despite collapsing share prices and the continuing crisis. As this could be a list that could take several hours to spell out, Dave could only adopt the historical precedent at PMQs and remember there is nothing in its title about answers.
Having failed to get millionaire Dave to answer, Ed then named his millionaire buddy Chancellor George as someone else who said names should be named.
Talking about money always makes the well off uncomfortable and the Tory side of the House seemed uncharacteristically quiet as Ed deployed both hands to make his point.
With Labour members now beside themselves with unexpected elation, Ed introduced a charge not heard since Tony and his pals seized the commanding heights of the Labour Party twenty years ago and delivered it directly to Dave.
“The class war,” he said, “is being led by him and his Cabinet of millionaires.” It was impossible to tell if all the Front Bench had heard what he said over the noise from Ed’s new fan base, but Dave recoiled on their behalf from phraseology he and they must have thought would only ever be heard from Denis Skinner (who himself could be forgiven for thinking he’d woken up in the wrong place).
It remains to be seen if class war is taken out again from its glass case in the Museum of Labour History, and it is hard to avoid the glee with which it will be received at the Daily Mail, but it certainly did the business today.
The Prime Minister, now clearly unnerved by the drubbing he was getting, tried to bounce back with a charge of “hypocrisy” against Ed — but when your luck is out, it really is out.
Quick as a flash, Speaker Bercow, whose own relationship with Dave is less than warm, was out of his seat to announce that the word was unparliamentary and must be withdrawn.
With their man floundering on the ropes the usual suspects on the Tory benches desperately tried to come to his aid with a series of fixed questions on the benefits cap due for debate later.
Labour is much less sure-footed in this area but Ed quite happily ignored the Prime Minister’s increasingly frustrated attempts to draw him in. Chancellor George meanwhile sat silent as both counted down the minutes to the final bell setting them free from the nightmare.
But Ed was not finished and popped up again to list everyone in the NHS who had now come out against the Government’s non-reorganisation plan to re-organise the health service.
If millionaires are Dave’s latest nightmare, the cock-up over the NHS has been keeping him awake for months, and Ed’s reminder only served to push his above-the-collar hue right off the colour charts. It was the Prime Minister who famously said: “We are all in this together.” All of a sudden, we are not.
Originally published in The New Statesman