PMQs: Miliband's claims of intellectual superiority start to look dim

Miliband has claimed he is intellectually superior to David Cameron, but it didn't all seem to add up during today's PMQs

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The Independent Online

Ed Miliband took his intellectual self-confidence for its first outing today since he decided to be open about his superiority over the Prime Minister. It was a disaster, because Miliband thought he had done well. When David Cameron tried to claim, in answer to the Labour leader’s first question, that he was in favour of giving tenants greater security, Miliband was so delighted with himself that all I could see was his teeth.

The trouble started with Miliband’s interview in the Evening Standard yesterday, in which he said: “Of the two leaders in this who could be prime minister, between myself and David Cameron, I feel I am the one with much more intellectual self-confidence, actually.”

I could not help but admire the self-confidence with which he dismissed the rules of conventional grammar as a small thing for lesser minds. Not only that, but his certainty that the marking of Philosophy, Politics and Economics degrees at Oxford fails adequately to measure intellectual capacity carried all before it.

What we need is an independent inquiry into how Cameron got a First and Miliband a 2:1.

So it was that Miliband came to Commons ready to show off his intellectual self-confidence. The first way of demonstrating it was to divide his six questions into two parts: three devoted to Labour’s plan for rent controls, and three to Labour’s plan to refer to the Pfizer bid for AstraZeneca to a full independent public inquiry.

In other words, more intervening in the free market, part one and part two.

This is the sort of thing that is very popular until people try to do it in government, as Francoises Mitterrand and Hollande discovered successively.

The opinion polls say people are in favour of rent controls, because they are in favour of things being cheaper, and they are against foreign companies buying British ones because they are a bit nationalistic.

But there is a level beyond this, where people realise that fixing rents and closing borders to foreign investment bring new problems.

Miliband is so intellectually self-confident that he knows all this, but thinks that he really could make it work in government next time. But he is not quite so self-confident as to set out exactly what he would do, because there is always Ed Balls pointing out why things won’t work.

Still, he is self-confident enough to know that superficial anti-capitalism will get him through PMQs.

David Cameron so lacks intellectual self-esteem that he performed miserably, feebly reading out quotations from Labour MPs, mentioning “Unite” and saying Labour’s policies, candidates and leader were for rent.

Then, on Pfizer, he accused Miliband of playing politics, selling the gold and cutting British manufacturing in half.

Miliband jiggled up and down, looked at Balls for approval and looked incontinently pleased with himself, like a school boy who had just caught out a teacher for misusing the subjunctive.

The trouble for Labour is that Miliband really does think he is the Prime Minister’s intellectual superior. He really thinks that he is going to change this country, shifting it to the left as Margaret Thatcher shifted it to the right.

That the country has, in fact, already shifted to the left, and he is in touch with this yearning for a new Sweden. And he is surrounded by clappers - staffers who applaud him back to the office after he has delivered what they know to be a mediocre speech.