As David Cameron wears out another pair of flip flops, Labour has been 100 per cent focused on the big issues
When he’s under pressure at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron famously often goes red. We know he has a short fuse and we know that Dave doesn’t do detail – that’s why we often see what is known in the House of Commons as “the crimson tide”. But after four summer holidays already this year, it’s to be hoped the Prime Minister has been caking on the Ambre Solaire Factor 50, otherwise at the fist PMQs in September, he’s going to be redder than a beetroot.
Whilst the PM has been writing his postcards and wearing out another pair of flip flops, far from being silent, Labour has been 100 per cent focused on the big issues facing Britain. For the avoidance of all doubt, here are Labour’s top 20 interventions since the start of the parliamentary recess:
1. Caroline Flint revealed on David Cameron’s watch gas and electricity companies have made profits of £3.3 billion, while your bill has gone up by over £300 a year.
2. Chris Leslie exposed the full scale of the cost of living crisis: By the time of the next election, working people will have lost a total of £6,660 under this Tory-led Government. That’s enough to buy a small car.
3. Chris Leslie also reacted as it was revealed that bonuses soared in April as firms delayed their pay-outs to take advantage of David Cameron’s tax cut for millionaires. While Yvette Cooper spoke out over the fact that the gender pay gap is widened as men receive bonuses double the size than women.
4. Liam Byrne gave a major speech on Labour’s plans to reform social security, bringing back the fiscal discipline and moral credibility lost in Iain Duncan Smith’s chaotic welfare shambles that will end up costing the taxpayer £1.4bn by 2015.
5. Jack Dromey published evidence of the great rental rip-off, where tenants find themselves paying £902 in fees to lettings agents before they even think about stumping up for a deposit.
6. Maria Eagle campaigned with commuters as they found out their season tickets going up by up to 9 per cent next year – a rise that could have been inflation only if the Government hadn’t handed a £78 million discount to train companies because of botched contracts.
7. Chuka Umunna held an important summit with employers and employees to discuss the spread of zero hour contracts and what steps can be taken to tackle their abuse.
8. Ed Balls launched a commission on inclusive prosperity in the US with the former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers to investigate what reforms our countries need to generate more high-wage jobs for the future.
9. Ed Balls also reacted as growth figures showed George Osborne and David Cameron had condemned Britain to the slowest recovery for over 100 years, while family living standards are squeezed.
10. Stephen Twigg revealed a £100 million black hole at the heart of the Department for Education as Michael Gove lavished taxpayers’ money on consultants and spin doctors while the country suffers a crisis in primary school places.
11. Stephen Twigg has also exposed that there has been a big increase in the number of young people taking two or more exams in the same subject. This is bad for standards, school budgets and learning.
12. Chris Bryant rejected the Government’s cheap and nasty gimmicks on immigration, designed to hide their failures, and put forward serious proposals to tackle illegal entry, end exploitation and encourage integration.
13. Douglas Alexander spoke out over the appalling scenes in Egypt and Syria, and kept up the pressure on Gibraltar.
14. Yvette Cooper and Stella Creasy led Labour’s response as online bullying and abuse on the internet hit the headlines.
15. Stephen Timms showed that the hated bedroom tax had failed, as ministers were forced to admit that there weren’t enough smaller properties for people to move into.
16. Stephen Timms exposed the fact that 330,000 more people are underemployed in the UK than in 2010. Meaning more than 1 in 10 workers want to work more hours but can’t, highlighting just how out of touch David Cameron’s Government is with the living standards crisis facing Britain’s hard working families.
17. Jon Trickett and Angela Eagle have exposed the Government’s failure to act on lobbying and have further demonstrated Cameron’s links with the tobacco lobbyist Lynton Crosby.
18. Mary Creagh has been campaigning to ensure shoppers can compare the cost of food to get the best deal.
19. Luciana Berger, David Hanson, Gloria De Piero and Diana Johnson have been raising important areas where the Government is failing to act on crime and anti-social behaviour, from dangerous dogs to gun licensing.
20. Andy Burnham, Andrew Gwynne and Labour’s health team continued to expose David Cameron’s crisis in the NHS as waiting lists for operations rose to their longest in five years. They also spoke out over figures showing that David Cameron is taking the NHS backwards with over 5,000 nurses having gone since he became PM.
The Tories, by contrast, have spent the past few weeks talking about…well…to large extent the Labour Party. Apart from Eric Pickles’ big and bold non-announcement on double yellow lines – the most significant road-centred policy intervention since John Major’s landmark “cones hotline” - the Conservatives have had little to say about the big issues facing the country and they have no new ideas of their own.
So when people try to tell you Labour has been silent this summer, don’t believe a word of it. And although the media have largely given the Tories a free pass this month, the Conservative party still have some fundamental problems as my colleague Jon Ashworth brilliantly highlighted on Labour List. Tory MPs went away this summer feeling good about themselves – they have the EU referendum that obsesses them, if not the public, and David Cameron threw them a BBQ at No 10. But one cabinet minister put this best when they told one newspaper, off-the-record, recently that the mood of the Tory MPs was one of “irrational exuberance”.
David Cameron’s bad back may have stopped him going deer-stalking this summer, but the truth is it is Ed Miliband who has been doing the heavy-lifting, building a platform from which to defeat the Conservatives in the living standards election of 2015.
We have made good progress for a party that suffered its second worse defeat only three years ago, yet we know there is much more to do to keep changing Labour and to keep taking the fight to the Tories and the Lib Dems in government. But Ed has a clear plan: a relentless focus on the big issues facing Britain and the changes we need to see – and we’re sticking to that plan.
Michael Dugher is MP for Barnsley East, Vice-Chair of the Labour Party and shadow minister without portfolio.