There has been much criticism of Ed Miliband over the last week – much of it undeserved – but after a decent press conference yesterday he could have done with a ship-steadying performance today. He didn’t deliver.
Perhaps he was a victim of the agony of choice. Presented with two u-turns this morning – on health and justice – he went for both…unsuccessfully. On sentencing the party seems all over the place at the moment. Do we favour Ken Clarke’s plans or abhor them? I honestly don’t know the answer. Miliband should have flattened Cameron over Ken Clarke but he swung and missed – because he’s on shaky ground himself.
We could all relax though, as Ed had another open goal at which to aim. Except in the manner of a nervous footballer in a penalty shoot out he chipped the ball over the bar. A weak question – something along the lines of “why are you so rubbish Prime Minister?” – seemed primed for a rousing cheer from the benches behind him. It never came. Cameron swatted him away with another disingenuous misquote of John Healey – who must be wishing he never gave speeches at all, as their loudest airing is always from the Prime Minister. He was misquoted (even more brazenly than usual), but Cameron cares not a jot for such details. He’s ruthless at PMQs – Ed isn’t
Ed had a few more swipes at the PM, and he was right to flag up Cameron’s speech to the Royal College of Nursing last year – which we covered on LabourList months ago – but that should have been the centrepiece to his attack, not the addendum. We’ve seen already what a lack of trust can do for a politician – ask the smirking but grey DPM sat next to the PM today – yet Cameron, himself on fairly poor form, will consider himself to have escaped unscathed from what looked like one of the least promising PMQs since the last one.
It’s not time to predict doom for Miliband. Countless people have already done that and been proved wrong – last time I slammed him at PMQs he gave a storming performance only a week later – but this was poor when it should have been great. Miliband needed a good performance at the very least to keep the monkey off his back and the backing of his supporters vocal.
When it comes to PMQs, Ed might just need a u-turn of his own.