Ed Miliband unleashed his best ever gag at the start of prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, mocking David Cameron for reports he has been forced to abandon his plans to introduce a minimum price for alcoholic drinks.
“In the light of his u-turn on alcohol pricing can the prime minister tell us if there is anything he could organise in a brewery?” the Labour leader said to roars of laughter from his MPs.
It has been reported that opposition to the policy from his cabinet, including from former health secretary Andrew Lansley, education secretary Michael Gove and home secretary Theresa May – who is said to be positioning herself to challenge for the Tory leadership – Cameron has had to drop the plan.
Miliband joked: “He obviously could not tell us about his policy on alcohol minimum unit pricing, I think the reality is he has just been overruled by the home secretary on this one.”
The barb did not go down well with May, who, stood next to the Speaker’s chair rather than sat on the government front bench, responded with her now trademark ‘death stare’.
Downing Street has refused to say whether plans for minimum pricing had been dropped, insisting the policy will be unveiled in “due course”.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson said there was a “real problem with deep discounting and the impact of anti-social behaviour” that had to be tackled.
During PMQs Cameron was directly confronted in the Commons by Tory MP Sarah Wollaston – a former GP – who said abandoning minimum pricing would “critically undermine future efforts”.
He told her: “There is a problem with deeply discounted alcohol in supermarkets and other stores and I am absolutely determined that we will deal with this.
“We published proposals, we are looking at the consultation and the results to those proposals, but be in no doubt, we’ve got to deal with the problem of having 20p or 25p cans of lager available in supermarkets. It’s got to change.”
A confident Miliband, who enjoyed one of his best PMQs performances to date, said reported cabinet splits showed the government was “falling apart”.
“A week out from the Budget, they have got an economic policy that’s failing, a prime minister that makes it up as he goes along and all the time, it’s the country that is paying the price,” he said.
Current position: Home Secretary Rides: “Beyond The Borders” Odds to win: 4/1 For: Politically, May is a shrewd and successful operator who has done a credible job as home secretary, a role that has tripped up many previous politicians. Against: A Tory minister recently described May as “100% charmless” and the only benefit that her appointment as leader would bring would be “net migration”.
Current position: Mayor of London Rides: “Bumbling Oratory” Odds to win: 5/1 For: Boris is rarer thing than a <a href=”http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sugarbushdrafthorse.com%2Frevival.html”>Sugarbush Draft Horse,</a> he’s a “popular Tory”. An <a href=”http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.co.uk%2F2012%2F10%2F07%2Fboris-johnson-preferred-to-david-cameron_n_1945895.html”>opinion poll last October</a> outed him as the people’s choice to replace Cameron. Unfortunately, it’s not up to the people… Against: Johnson has all but ruled out taking over from Cameron before 2015, wary that undermining him could scupper any leadership hopes. Just like what happened to Lord Heseltine in the wake of Margaret Thatcher stepping down…
Current position: Secretary of State for Education Rides: “Baccalaureate Backtrack” Odds to win: 9/1 For: Gove is highly regarded within the Tory party as charming, polite and capable. Against: He has taken a bruising both from the public and other Tories for some of his proposals as Secretary of State for Education.
Current position: Defence Secretary Rides: “Stripped Down Defender” Odds to win: 10/1 For: Erm… Against: Recently received a “slapping down” from Danny Alexander for publicly complaining about defence cuts. Also, he’s possibly the most “beige” of all the prospective candidates.
Current position: MP for Windsor Rides: “Outside Upstart” Odds to win: 25/1 For: Afriyie is part of the new generation of Tories with fewer qualms about toppling their leader. One Tory minister said: “<a href=”http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.telegraph.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fpolitics%2F9916975%2FTories-too-afraid-of-fresh-chaos-for-leadership-coup.html”>They don’t have the same memory or experience to hold them back</a>. “And if they start to think they’re going to lose their seats at the election, they could get a bit panicked.” Against: Was widely ridiculed earlier this year when the relative unknown was tipped for a leadership challenge. Also, no-one seems to have told him about his own challenge until he read about it in the papers and “<a href=”http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.guardian.co.uk%2Fpolitics%2F2013%2Fjan%2F31%2Fadam-afriyie-pm-in-waiting”>nearly choked on my Cornflakes</a>”.
Current position: Rides: “Spend Wisely” Odds to win: 33/1 For: Dr Fox has become the unofficial spokesman for those Tories disaffected with the current leadership with a number of public statements criticising their direction on austerity. Against: Is it really a good move to appoint someone who was forced to resign from his job as defence minister for <a href=”http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.co.uk%2F2011%2F10%2F09%2Fliam-fox-resigns_n_1002156.html”>allowing a close friend improper access to the highest level of government affairs?</a> Additionaly, <a href=”http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.co.uk%2F2013%2F03%2F11%2Fliam-fox-tory-leadership_n_2851902.html”>Fox recently said</a>: “I think there is no chance of us having a leadership election in the Conservative Party before the election, I think that would be madness.”
Earlier on HuffPost: