By Ray Fleming,

FINALLY, towards the end of Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, David Cameron blew his top: “Twenty-six minutes have gone by and not a question about the strikes tomorrow”. He had plenty to say, but no one on the Labour benches had given him an opening; Ed Miliband, in particular, had kept well away from the subject.

But yesterday, addressing a Local Government Conference, Miliband could hardly avoid it and actually implied that the unions were wrong to strike before negotiations were concluded. He also said that he wanted Labour to be “the party of mums and dads who know the value of a day's education”. No wonder he prefers to avoid the subject.

The government's position on the strikes took a couple of knocks yesterday. In TV and radio interviews Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, makes much of the “unaffordability” of current public pensions and the need to reduce them in the future. He was challenged twice on this issue, on BBC Radio 4's Today and later by Jeff Randall, Sky News' business editor who said the government was “skating on thin ice”.

Both made the same point, that projections by the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee show the cost of public pensions falling as a percentage of Britain's GDP, not increasing. Mr Maude needs to deal with this key point as soon as possible.


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