PMQs Verdict: Rattled Cameron’s omnishambolic performance makes Miliband look like a credible alternative PM
David Cameron wanted nothing more than to talk about positive statistics today – so much so that he may have inadvertently given information that he shouldn’t have about tomorrow’s GDP figures. Ed Miliband wasn’t going to give him the chance though. Last week’s energy prices cock-up was raked over in detail, and the PM continued to dig himself a nice big hole over it. Despite none of his ministers really seeming to have any idea what his plan to have everyone on the lowest energy tariff would mean – or how it would work – he stuck by it. Policy on the hoof is now being stuck to – the very worst kind of policy, and the sign of someone who can’t admit they’ve made a horrendous mistake. As Daniel Zeichner noted on LabourList last week, Cameron would be giving up on Thatcherism by adopting this policy. Whilst that would be welcome, it seems unlikely.
In his attempts to deflect attention from his gaffe, he managed to point out that Ed Miliband both decreased energy bills and improved energy company profits. No wonder Miliband seemed pleased with himself as he lampooned the struggling PM with a serious of well aimed gags, including lashing out at an especially uncomfortable looking George Osborne who – Miliband smiled – needs upgrading more than the standard class ticket he was clutching last Friday. I’ve called in the past for Miliband to cut the jokes from PMQs – but today they served to show how confident he was with his performance. He looked like a winner. All that was missing was for him to lean imperiously on the dispatch box and bellow “weak, weak, weak”. So good was this performance you have expected to see Miliband with his feet up on the dispatch box lighting a celebratory cigar after his performance. He’d certainly earned it.
At any other week, the poor, rattled performance of the Prime Minister and the surging confidence of Ed Miliband would be the only story. It was certainly the first time that Miliband had wiped out the Prime Minister so comprehensively. But there was a final twist today. Tom Watson raised the spectre of a paedophile ring linked to government and Downing Street – news greeted with shock and silence by the house.
So the Prime Minister may have broken the law and there may have been a paedophile ring linked to Downing Street. It would be easy in such circumstances to overlook Miliband’s stirring performance, but it would be a great shame were that to happen. In one exchange, Miliband chided the PM, saying ”If he wants to swap places, I’m very happy to do so.” If he carries on like this – and with the confidence he’s shown in recent months – he’ll be doing just that. Today, as he dodged Cameron’s clumsy jabs and landed his own, he looked like a credible alternative PM. Surely now there is only one party leader who still relishes these encounters (hint: it’s not Nick Clegg).
Next week – with growth likely to have returned to the economy – will be the biggest test yet. But Ed – at last – looks more than up to the task.
What a turnaround 2012 has been. No-one on the Labour side is holding their breath at 11.55 anymore.
Good. “Game on.”