Prime Minister's Questions Dominated By Debate On Living Standards

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Labour is banking on the nation's falling living standards to help decide the outcome of the 2015 General Election.

Opposition leader Ed Miliband said people feeling worse off than in 2010 would be "the issue of the next two years", attempting to pin down David Cameron on the issue during Prime Minister's Questions.

Channelling Ronald Reagan, he asked: "Can the Prime Minister tell us whether at the end of this Parliament, living standards will be higher or lower than they were at the beginning?"

Cameron said 24 million people had benefited from a cut in the basic rate of income tax, saying living standards would "certainly be higher" for those on the minimum wage and working full time.

This was not enough for Miliband, who changed the wording of his question: "In 2015, people will be asking 'am I better off now than I was five years ago'.

"What is his answer?"

This prompted the Prime Minister to snap: "People will be better off than they were under Labour."

ed miliband

Ed Miliband has previously borrowed from Benjamin Disraeli

Cameron pointed to the prediction of a return to growth from the Bank of England, and blamed Labour's policies in government for the economic slowdown.

Miliband's attack echoed Reagan's famous line against Jimmy Carter in the 1980 US presidential election campaign.

Republican Reagan used a televised debate to ask the US public : "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"

It's not the first time the Labour leader has borrowed from a conservative icon - his 2012 conference speech was built around Benjamin Disraeli's 'one nation' concept.

It comes after a report warned it would be a decade before living standards returned to their pre-recession levels.

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The Resolution Foundation said low to middle income households would never fully recover the ground they lost in the slump.

Miliband referred to figures the Office for Budget Responsibility, which forecast wages would will lag behind inflation up to 2015, leaving working households worse off as a result.

Prices have been rising faster than wages, he told the Commons, pinning the blame on the lack of economic growth under the coalition.

"We have had to take difficult decisions," Cameron replied.

After Miliband highlighted the government's tax cut for the highest earners, the PM mocked an announcement by a Labour-linked lobbyist that a 'major speech on the economy' by the Labour leader "won't have any new policies in it".

Asked whether the living standards attack would be a winning tactic for Labour, pollsters YouGov told the Huffington Post UK that it did not carry out surveys on the topic, because it meant "different things to different people."