Ed Miliband’s wonky PMQs’ maths

Paul Walter’s LibDemVoice review of yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions mentioned the Ed Miliband soundbite which has been picked up by much of the media… but so far without the disbelief it’s due. Here’s what the Labour leader said:

The difference is that, unlike the Prime Minister, I am not going to demonise the dinner lady, the cleaner or the nurse, people who earn in a week what the Chancellor pays for his annual skiing holiday.

A quick reminder for those who don’t live in the Westminster bubble that, last January, it was revealed (by which I mean I read it in the Daily Mail) that Mr Osborne spent £11,000 on his family holiday in Klosters.

£11,000 — according to the Labour leader, that is what dinner ladies, cleaners and nurses earn in a week, which means an annual pre-tax income of £572,000.

I assume what he meant to say was “I am not going to demonise the dinner lady, the cleaner or the nurse, people who earn in a year what the Chancellor pays for his annual skiing holiday.”

It’s not so much that Ed fluffed his line that surprised me — it’s that his original has been replayed and repeated without media comment even though it only takes a moment’s mental adding-up to realise it simply doesn’t add up.

But then that’s what happens when politics becomes wrapped around the language of so-called ‘class-war’ — facts and objectivity go out of the window.

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This entry was posted in Parliament and PMQs.


  • To compare the amount a dinner lady earns in a year with the amount Osborne spends on a weeks holiday IS objective and has nothing to do with class envy.

    The fact that so many journalists repeated something so obviously nonsensical just shows how innumerate and lazy journalists are.

  • Nick (notClegg) 1st Dec '11 - 12:11pm

    It was obviously a slip of the tongue and we did not need commentators, nor you Stephen, to point that out to us. If they had done so, however, they would have made Ed’s point for him and more eloquenty than he had managed to by himself; is that what you wanted?

  • Really Stephen Tall? You thought it was necessary to write an article/blog post regarding a mere slip of the tongue. Ed made his point, and it was a good one.

  • What would Labour have done about the pensions issue?

  • We all know what he meant, and there’s a reason Cameron didn’t correct him. I cannot understand the thinking behind this post – totally bizarre.

  • Ed has belatedly noticed that Dave is wealthly. The thing is Ed – you are wealthy too, wealthier probably than 97% of the population. If you want to do class war delegate it to someone else in your party.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 1st Dec '11 - 12:44pm

    @Tom “What would Labour have done about the pensions issue?”

    Interesting question because they already made a major change to the pensions environment. Channel 4 News FactCheck observes:

    “The Labour government implemented a “substantial cut” in public sector pensions by changing the pension age from 60 to 65, says Carl Emmerson, “making people pay in for five more years to receive the same pension for five fewer years”.”


  • I think people have been a little unfair to Stephen. Yes it was a fluff, but I didn’t know how much George Osbourne spent on his holiday. I think that fact that people have not published the ACTUAL numbers is what is most shocking!

  • I don’t really leave comments on this site, as I am not a liberal, I rarther just like to read the articles to find out what liberal thinking is.

    Ed got one of his words mixed up, so what?, we know what he ment to say. Tory bloggers are always happy to point out to everyone any detail, large or small, that they can attack Ed with. But even they would not give credence to this never mind giving it a title “Ed Miliband’s wonky PMQs’ maths”. I guess it must be the same here no matter what it is, big or small, bash him over the head with it.

  • Someone made an error in the tags to this post, who Miloband? Maybe I should write a blog post about it.

  • Michael Gradwell 1st Dec '11 - 1:26pm

    The main point for me was not Ed’s error but the noise that followed it from the Labour benches. The MPs weren’t listening to their leader, they were just programed to respond.

  • @Simon Shaw

    ““Dinner Ladies” (nice bit of political correctness there, on his part) are paid around £2000 per year (I should know, my wife used to be one)”

    £2k a year really? or was that a slip of the “thumb” my my how the coalition apologists are out in force today 😉

  • I got Eds point. Basically this article is a bad attempt to spin a bit of propaganda out of awful economic results, failure on a duanting scale, Danny Alexanders red faced fiasco of an intervview with Paxman and yet more depressing evidence that party loyalist are oblivious to the fact that they are taking the Lib Dems to electoral death or an eventual split.

  • @Simon Shaw

    I am not a Labour Party supporter or apologist. I do however find the sensational headline to this blog post to be quite ridiculous, same can be said for the content.

    There is nothing to suggest Ed Miliband wasn’t aware of how much dinner ladies were paid, far more plausible is that it was a slip of the tongue, highlighting income inequality hasn’t got nothing to do with a ‘class war’.

    Further, dinner ladies earn more than £2000 a year based on my research, here is a recent vacancy posting:

    Catering Assistant

    (Catering Assistant, CRB, Food Hygiene certificate, education, school, Kitchen Assistant, Dinner Lady, High school, Primary school)
    Start: ASAP
    Rate: £210 – £245 per week
    Location: North West London, England
    Type: Permanent
    Industry: Other
    Recruiter: Unity Recruitment

  • It’s quite possible for a dinner lady to only be paid £2000 a year. Take into account school holidays and the fact that not all are involved in food preparation (reducing skills requirement and the time worked each day) and it’s conceivable that they earn £2000 a year.

    My grandmother was a dinner lady for decades and must have earned very little indeed from what I know of my mothers childhood. I doubt she’d ever have striked though since she enjoyed the work and needed the money too much. I always think striking demonstrates sufficient wealth to forego pay.

  • Simon Bamonte 1st Dec '11 - 3:54pm

    This article is silly and it makes us, as a party, look petty. I thought we were supposedly “non-tribal”?

    @Simon Shaw: it does you no favours to call people names like “apologists”. As a long-time Lib Dem supporter, who is actively thinking of leaving the party, I find it sad that someone like you resorts to name calling and insinuating that, because someone may support a different party, their opinion is somehow worthless. A bit more tact and a bit less rudeness would not go amiss.

  • Firstly Simon,
    I’m not a labour supporter. I until recently supported the Lib Dems, I have posted many times on this site. I do not think Ed Balls plans are much better tha George Osbornes. These days I am basically a floating voter with a vague liberal bias.The kind of person this party spent years courting. But go a head cheif , keep putting this Parties misfortunes down to pesky secret new labour spies.

  • Simon Bamonte 1st Dec '11 - 4:22pm

    @Simon Shaw, I know it may be hard to believe that there are millions of people who feel we as a party have let them down and it does us no favours at all to assume everyone here who opposes us is somehow a Labour plant. I’ve been a supporter and Lib Dem voter since the mid-80s and am currently wrestling with my conscience in support of the party. If attitudes like yours are going to become prevalent then maybe it is indeed time this left-of-centre voter looks to greener pastures.

  • Stephen Tall…I agree with those who consider this a pointless, childish article….Especially as you write another article in defence of the crass remarks of J. Clarkson

  • Nick (notClegg) 1st Dec '11 - 4:46pm

    @ Simon Shaw,
    I am not an apologist for Ed Miliband. Is it your contention that anyone who suggests that Stephen’s blog was rather silly must be a Labour supporter? Be careful; that could drive quite a lot of people into the Labour camp.
    For the record, I first joined the Liberal Party in 1962. I lapsed in 1983 for personal and work-related reasons. I joined the Liberal Democrats in 1994 and ceased to be a member, for political reasons(, in September of this year. I have never been a member of any other partyy
    In canvassing over the years, I have become used to meeting a number of people who say “There’s no point in voting; you’re all the same”. I have the impression that the proportion of people responding in this way has been increasing over the past three or four general elections. I have now come,sadly, to the conclusion that they were right.

  • We are not “Dinner Ladies” we are “Mid Day Supervisors”, and yes we are paid £2000 per year for which we work extremely hard, if it was not for us the schools would have to shut at lunchtime because the teaching staff are not allowed to cover the children during this time. It would take me over 5 years to save the money to take my family on a skiing trip, so an apology would have been nice.

  • Heh, it’s alway a bad sign in a debate when, both the author and some of the commentors, become absurdly pedantic, (been there myself 🙂 ).

    The meaning behind E Miliband words was surely just that while the Chancellor inflicts extremely painful cuts to the dinnerladies, nurses and cleaners, both now and for the next few years, he himself can afford holidays which would take them months if not years to earn in gross pay nevermind any other expense or taxes. A bit gratuitously populist but a point nevertheless.

  • Barry George 1st Dec '11 - 8:04pm

    Heh, it’s always a bad sign in a debate when, both the author and some of the commentors, become absurdly pedantic

    All this arguing semantics about a clear slip of the tongue is keeping everyone busy . This is one of the most popular threads on this sit, judging by the comments.

    Meanwhile , less than two days ago a senior Lib Dem was seen to be confirming that the Liberal economic manifesto at the next election would be no different than the Tories. Thereby at best tying this party to the Conservatives for at least 2 years beyond the next election..

    Was that a slip of the tongue too ? Or are the Liberal Democrats really going into the next election with the intention of saying to the voter.. vote for us because we agree with the Conservative manifesto ?

    It reminds me of Emperor Nero….

  • @Simon Shaw
    Why does attacking Stephen Tall (‘s article) equate to apologising for Miliband?

    Attacking Stephen Tall’s article = attacking Stephen Tall’s article.

    Judging each and every argument Miliband, or anyone else, makes on the merits of those arguments is something called objectivity. You are the one, Simon Shaw, who seem unable to understand that principle and are demonstrating rather extreme tribalism. Do you realise how off-putting that is to anyone who isn’t a tribalist?

  • Tony Dawson 2nd Dec '11 - 9:21am

    Surely the biggest gaffe of Ed Miliband was to (deliberately, I’m sure) lump together nurses and dinner ladies, whose incomes can easily be a factor of 15-20 apart? I would guess that his own wealth and that of Mr Osborne are possibly closer together than that. Their incomes certainly are.

    £11,000 sounds more like the income of a Council or HMRC clerk. I wonder why Ed didn’t choose that this week in particular?

  • I would assume the reason for lumping together dinner ladies, cleaners and nurses, despite the difference in their income, is because they are roles mainly undertaken by women and Miliband was illustrating the point that women are being hit hardest by cuts. I am not at all a Labour apologist but I think this article is silly. It was clearly a slip of the tongue on Miliband’s part. Is that what we’ve been reduced to?

  • Michael Gradwell 2nd Dec '11 - 11:25am

    I still think we should be talking about MPs, as W.S. Gilbert put it, who have left there brains outside Westminster. It doesn’t matter that Ed made a mistake as we all make them.

  • Peter Chivall 2nd Dec '11 - 12:19pm

    I don’t know if Stephen Tall’s piece was intended to denigrate Ed Milliband or not. The point about family wealth is that you can’t choose to be wealthy, but you can choose what you do with it. I’m sorry that Milliband, E., or his speechwriters fluffed a very good point about the lack of any social conscience by far too many Coalition ministers. By conflating nurses and dinner ‘ladies’ and then saying ‘week’ instead of ‘year’, he has allowed his denigrators to ‘play the man’ not respond to the argument. Ed Milliband’s intentions may be good, but he seems to lack both the mental and verbal agility needed to take on slippery fish loke Cameron and Osborne.
    With many Liberal Democrat MPs and Ministers privately horrified at what Cameron and Osborne are doing to both employment and social cohesion in our country their criticism seems permanently undermined by the existence of Danny Alexander as the senior LibDem spokesperson on finance, the economy and taxes. It is notable that Tory Conference reps. in October voted him in the top 5 of 30 Coalition Ministers, but LibDem conference reps voted him last but one in the same list!

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