Verdict:The way modern politics is reported – through 24 hour news, twitter, and yes blogs – every incident is amplified, pored over and questioned. Thousands of people try to read the runes and see what the political events of a particular week mean. We obsess. We deconstruct. We predict glory or failure. Last week Ed Miliband was poor at PMQs. His performance fed into a prevailing narrative that he was struggling. And in an example of the inherent unfairness of modern life, we were told that he must perform well this week – that he must prove himself again.
And prove himself he did. Today was a confident and assured performance from Ed who changed his tactics and took the fight to the PM. No more splitting his questions. No more trying to flag up forgotten subjects. This week he used the big issue of the week. Fees. It had worked so well for Harman against the hapless Clegg weeks ago, and today Miliband gave his backbenchers a bit of red meat. Something to cheer for. And cheer they did.
It was consistent stuff from Ed Miliband. Punch and Judy looks to be back. But there’s no sense in asking polite questions to a hectoring bully who won’t answer them. It was a jibe from the PM though that gave Ed his chance. He was quick on his feet, and he threw out a jibe that sealed the win. Cameron said that Ed Miliband looked like a student politician. Ed looked delighted at the opportunity he’d been presented with. Rather a student politician than a student who hangs out with people who wreck restaurants he replied, deftly producing the Bullingdon Card.
The Labour benches went wild. Red meat. A thumping whack on Cameron’s nose. You can’t beat a bit of Bully.
From then on Cameron was flustered. He doesn’t like to seem out of touch. That’s what he fears most. Ed has seen the weakness, now he needs to exploit it.
So a win for Miliband then. But what he has really achieved is breathing space. He picked himself off the floor today and went at Cameron with gusto. He’s proved himself – twice. In future, perhaps people will be a little slower to jump on him should he falter again.
12.36: Returning to Cameron’s hypocrisy (12.18) I’ve found the evidence. The Tory 2005 manifesto (which the Tories kindly have kept online), written by Cameron, says on page 9 “We will restore real choice in higher education by scrapping fees”. Is Cameron the real flip-flopper on fees after all?
12.30: Lib Dem disaster area Don Foster rises to ask a question – sadly it’s not on tuition fees, considering his views on the subject…
12.28: Brilliant question from MP Nigel Dodds, who compares Fifa to the Lib Dems. At first Cameron takes it as a joke but rapidly loses his temper. He’s just shouting and running in circles. He’s riled.
12.25: There is some frantic discussion going on between Nick Clegg and Vince Cable…
12.18: Cameron keeps on throwing the last manifesto – written by Ed Miliband – back at the Labour benches. More rank hypocrisy from the PM – after all he certainly didn’t feel tied to the 2005 “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?” manifesto that he wrote in 2005.
12.16: Nice cheeky question from Kerry McCarthy on the Smiths – now that Cameron has been banned from liking them by the band – but in fairness to the PM, his response suggests that he has at least actually heard some Smiths songs. Although I’m still convined Phil Collins is more his thing.
12.15: Noisy responses from Labour benches – they seem to have enjoyed PMQs today.
12.09: The order papers are being waved by Labour MPs as Miliband hits Cameron with a comparison between his student days as a student politician, and Cameron’s student days wrecking resteraunts with the Bullingdon Club. Cameron’s response is a tad shaky – I don’t think he expected that.
12.08: The PM looks under pressure this week on fees. Miliband lands another blow on him – “Only the PM could treble fees and call it a better deal for students.”
12.07: A nice bit of commons judo there from Miliband, flipping his insult from last week – “not waving but drowing” back at Cameron.
12.06: Much more vigour from Miliband this week, but Cameron is fighting back – he asks why Labour are breaking their pledge over the Browne review to finger pointing a laughter aimed at the Lib Dems.
12.04: The reason that fees are going up is the deficit claims Cameron. That’s an interesting justification. Ed Miliband replies than being split four ways is bizarre even for Liberal Democrats.
12.02: Loud cheers from the Tories as Ed Miliband stands – and he’s leading off with tuition fees, asking if English students will pay more than at any public education system in the industrialised world. Cameron again fails to answer the question. As this was the straightest of straight questions, what will he answer?
12.00: PMQs begins with Cameron discussing his trip to Afghanistan.Keep an eye out for top tweeting MP Kerry McCarthy today – she’s at number four on the order paper.
11.45: After a poor PMQs performance last week, Ed Miliband needs a much improved performance today as Iain Martin rightly says over at the Wall Street Journal. Recently I’ve been surprised that Ed has chosen to take a less aggressive line of attack with Cameron, and by discussing the economy (but neglecting to mention Mervyn King’s views on Cameron and Osborne) and school sport (which was a worthy cause and might prove to be a long-term win) he hasn’t landed any real blows on Cameron. Today we need fireworks. Will he go for tuition fees, as the biggest live issue ahead of the vote tomorrow? Now that Alan Johnson has given his support for a graduate tax (at last) Miliband may feel he can move on that issue without getting whacked by Cameron over a difference of opinion on the front bench.