Ed Miliband targeted David Cameron's membership of an elite Oxford drinking club on Wednesday as he accused the prime minister of unfairly cutting benefits for working people.
During a noisy prime minister’s questions, the Labour leader said 60% of people who would see their benefit payments cut as a result of the Autumn Statement were in work and not, as described by George Osborne, “scroungers”.
Taking aim at the personal wealth of the cabinet, Miliband said: “They look after their friends, the people on their Christmas card list. Meanwhile they hit people they will never meet and whose lives they will never understand.”
In a sign of what could be a defining political battle at the next general election, Cameron said the coalition was making necessary cuts to welfare while helping “working people” earn £3,000 more before they started paying income tax.
“This is the party for people who work, theirs is the party for unlimited welfare,” he said.
And in a flash of temper in response to Ed Balls heckling and waving a sheet of figures at him, the prime minister said: “Like bullies all over the world he can dish it out but he can’t take it.”
Miliband hit back: “I've heard everything when the boy from the Bullingdon Club lectures people on bullying. Absolutely extraordinary.” Before adding to cheers: “Have you wrecked a restaurant recently?”
Cameron often lets Balls get under his skin at PMQs and during a later question let his irritation with Labour heckles show, telling Miliband he was “catching the disease of the shadow chancellor of not being able to keep his mouth shut for five seconds.”
Labour has decided to opposed government plans to limit any increase in benefit payments to one percent for the next three years, arguing it will unfairly take money away from people in work and families with children.
However the Conservative Party argues the cut is necessary to pay down the deficit and is only fair as working people see their pay squeezed.