No more Flashman. That was the briefing ahead of today’s PMQs. We were told his staff had warned him off the aggressive style that he usually adopts at PMQs. The style that had started to look bad on TV. The style that brought the unthinking “calm down dear”. All of that would be consigned to history.
If that was the plan for today then Cameron failed completely. If anything he was worse than ever. Evasive. Rude. Boorish. This was Flashman 2.0. Not the unthinking Flashman of before, but a self-knowing, confident, brash Flash, unafraid to trample over opposition MPs and the feelings of his Deputy Prime Minister.
Usually when Cameron adopts this crass arrogant posture he looks like he’s winning PMQs. That’s why he does it. He tries to crush the more measured Miliband underfoot.
Yet today Ed was holding all of the cards. The NHS reforms are a mess. The PM can’t decide whether or not to hold them close or throw Lansley overboard. His mind is more muddled than these metaphors are mixed. He is in disarray. As Miliband hit him with question after question he was forced into a defensive retreat. He accused Miliband of misleading the house over NHS waiting times, he misquoted John Healey (again) and he thrashed and wailed and upped the tempo.
He didn’t answer any questions though. Then again. Why would he, as Ed Miliband said today, “Flashman doesn’t answer questions”.
And today, despite his best efforts, the PM was purest Flashman.