Verdict: A sparky first PMQs of the new year, and one that – as expected – was dominated by the economy. Ed Miliband made a reasonable stab at hitting Cameron over banker’s bonuses, but as we’ve identified on LabourList before, Cameron’s answers are evasive and rarely clear. Cameron managed to avoid real embarrassment by patronising the Labour leader, talking slowly, and issuing a muddle of figures or worse – simply claiming that a question was too long. He wouldn’t win many debating points for that.
Miliband did cause a couple of wobbles for the PM, and seemed to throw him off by actively defending Labour’s economic record. Cameron expects Labour to be sheepish on the economy – so he seems genuinely surprised when Miliband isn’t.
A refrain from previous weeks that Miliband returned to with some success was that the PM is “out of touch”, and references to “Planet Cameron”. Cameron hates this attack, and visibly wobbled, before anger got the better of him. His bad temper continued to the end of the session, snapping, crackling and popping through the rest of the session. One SNP MP was smashed within seconds of opening his mouth. It’s a strong tactic in the chamber – but on TV, it looked mean and bullying.
Miliband may not have made the most of Cameron’s bank bonus u-turn, but he touched a nerve with the PM today. In the long run, that could prove more important.
12.28: Media regulation will be “fair and transparent” promises Cameron. That’s a quote he will certainly be held to.
12.22: There have been quite a few tricky questions from Tory MPs today. Are the getting a bit braver?
12.18: Cameron is angry and rude today. The atmosphere is spiteful at PMQs today. Initially I thought it might be the upcoming by-election, but even SNP MPs aren’t safe as Cameron slaps down one of their MPs. Sense of humour now gone, he’s looking furious…
12.14: Ed Miliband said that the Tories pledge to cut banker bonuses is still on their website – he’s right, here it is. “No Bank Bonuses over £2,000″
12.12: The bravado seems to have gone from Cameron here. Is he rocking a little? Miliband hits him with the “out of touch” jibe, and talks of “Life on Planet Cameron” – the PM hates it. Is he afraid to look out of touch?
12.10: “He’s had eight months to regulate the banks, when’s he going to start?” Nice reverse from Ed Miliband of Cameron’s attack on his leadership from last year. Cameron brings back Fred Godwin – blast from the past. Miliband responds by saying that the Tories were calling for more deregulation in opposition.
12.08: A first outing for the Vince Cable comments from Ed Miliband, who refers to the business secretary’s “nuclear weapon”. Cameron ducks the question by saying the question was too long.
12.07: Miliband hits back with statistics, saying that the PM has introduced a tax cut for the banks. The PM tries again with another Johnson numbers joke….Cameron then follows up with attempting to Miliband. The problem is, he’s not very clear. Maybe that’s the point…
12.06: And Cameron makes his first joke about Alan Johnson….flop.
12.03: Ed Miliband’s up now, and leads off on bank bonuses, quoting Cameron’s comments in opposition. Brilliantly deadpan from Miliband – he ramps up the anger for the next question though attacking Cameron’s “pathetic excuses”. It seems that some of Cameron’s previous promises are still on the Tory website….
12.01: And we’re off – the first PMQs of 2011 begins with a question from Labour’s David Hanson on VAT – specifically Cameron’s solemn pledge. Cameron responds with the usual attacks on Labour – no change for the new year then.
11.46: Kerry McCathry has posted her PMQs preview (including the running order of questions).
11.30: We’re back after the Christmas break, and it’s time for the first PMQs of 2011. There hasn’t been too much rest for the party leaders though, with a by-election in Oldham, the conviction of a sitting MP and angry eurosceptics to concentrate on.
Expect questions from Ed this week to be largely focused on the economy. His press conference on Monday was all about growth and banker bonuses, but the PM will of course want to draw attention to the shadow chancellor’s recent national insurance gaffe.
Ed’s performances were much better in the final two PMQs before Christmas. He’ll want to maintain that momentum today ahead of Thursday’s poll.