Verdict: A nother week, and another poor performance from Cameron, whose inability (or downright refusal) to answer a straight question is dragging PMQs down to near farcical depths.
Evasive PMs are of course not a new thing. Thatcher was dismissive, Blair toyed with his prey, whilst Brown appeared to actively resent the whole experience. But Cameron is different. There’s little serious about his performances (and that’s what they are). Every question isn’t a chance to provide clarity but is instead an opportunity for another attack or insult.
Today Cameron was exceptionally glib, even smug. The early questions on the economy – the defining issue of this parliament – were greeted by lame insults, with no shred of “mea culpa”. Inflation is on the rise pricing people even further out of even the simplest of purchases, but point-scorer Cameron cares not a jot.
Miliband won on substance today, although it wasn’t a vintage performance. Splitting his questions seems to cost him crucial momentum, but he did at least force Cameron to suggest that his own policy of forest sell-offs has been discarded.He does have a tendency though to plough on witha line of questioning regardless of Cameron’s responses. If he can be better at thinking on his feet, he can start turning these technical victories into knockouts.
The majority of the public – who see PMQs only through the prism of the evening news – are likely to be shocked that as they lose their jobs and struggle to pay their bills, this angry, aggressive, confrontational and evasive Prime Minister doesn’t even consider their plight worthy of serous discussion.
Shame on him.
12.31: PMQs comes to a close for this week. A Miliband win on substance, but a poor show from Cameron. Full verdict to come.
12.25: Cameron backs Hazel Blears on the speaker’s internship scheme. You can read about it here.
12.23: Cameron really hates judges doesn’t he. The law is the law is the law unless he disagrees with it. He even goes as far as saying that we can expect a British Bill of Rights. Will Labour have a say?
12.21: A crass attack by Cameron on Manchester City Council. He says their cuts are “politically motivated”. What chutzpah. What gall.
12.19: Tory backbencher says that Labour councillors are still “obsessed” with “top down housing targets”. The Tories don’t have targets. That’s why house building has gone through the floor. More on this later today on LabourList.
12.13: Miliband says it’s ironic that the man who made thr Tory logo the tree wants to sell off the forests – he’s trying to push Cameron hard to cancel the sell off, but Cameron is glib, glib, glib. No answers, no responses, no point, Poor show from the PM. He may be “flashman”, but that wasn’t a flash performance.
12.12: A brief break, and we’re back – and it’s forestry. Miliband forces Cameron to admit that he’s unhappy with his own policy on forests.
12.10: Ed Miliband has split his questions. I’m not a fan of this as a tactic – I think it stalls momentum, but does this mean Miliband has something up his sleeve?
12.09: Cameron says his back to work scheme is the biggest since the 1930s – but Miliband says it provides 250,000 fewer opportunities. Who do you believe?
12.06: Miliband whacks Cameron again on youth unemployment, bringing up EMA and the Future Jobs Fund – including Cameron’s former praise for the FSJ. Miliband then swings at the PM over selling off internships at the Tory “Black and White” Ball.
12.04: Ed Miliband leads off with the economy, especially youth unemployment, alongside inflation and stalling growth. Cameron responds by quoting the increasingly political and partial bank of england governor.
12.02: Cameron is put on the defensive from the off over care homes – with some carehomes raising their prices by £400 a week – but Cameron bats the question away.
Preview: So Cameron was poor last week, and Ed Miliband was the clear victor by most reports. He was smart and self-depracating. He made Cameron look angry and out of touch, and hammered home key points on the big society and sure start cuts.
One PMQs win is a good news story, two in a row is a trend, three is a media narrative.
Miliband needs to start a trend today by hitting Cameron hard. The economy presents itself as the obvious option today, with inflation at 4% the latest pressure on “hard working families” who are struggling to make ends meet. He could call for VAT to be cut back to 17.5%. He could even ask what exactly his new director of strategy Andrew Cooper will be doing. One presumes he’ll be developing a new strategy, because this one is looking a little ragged already.
If Miliband can land some decent hits today and get the PM rocking on his heels again, and reaching desperately for his “everything is Labour’s fault” crutch, then we’re not far away from a media narrative that says Miliband is beating Cameron hands down, the economic recovery is weak, and Labour lead in the polls.