This week’s PMQs felt in many ways like a repeat of last week’s. Cameron outperformed Miliband, but more on bluster and chutzpah than any substantial. Miliband again fell into the trap of believing that the right substance will somehow see him to victory in the weekly wednesday cock fight. He’s still wrong, unfortunately. Cameron puffing out his chest and beating it like Tarzan still beats Ed Miliband’s sixth form lecturer routine, chiding the Tory benches for their failure to properly comprehend the probity of his argument.
On the whole the performance was an improvement on the poor showing last week, but more worryingly some of Ed’s worst habits are starting to creep back in. Over the past 8 months he had grown into a confident and comfortable PMQs performer, taking issues in his stride, ploughing onwards against the tide of noise spewing from the opposite benches and sometimes even cracking the odd decent joke.
Most importantly though, Miliband had dropped some of the rhetorical and repetitive debating devices / soundbites that he’d refer to time and again to steady himself (like a crutch) when he was floundering, uncomfortable or playing for time. The problem is, it’s obvious to everyone in the chamber and many people watching at home what he’s doing. It makes his performances feel disjointed and repetitive. And as catchphrases go, they aren’t great. In fact, they just reinforce the idea that Cameron is winning the exchange.
Miliband needs to get back to the way he was performing just a few week ago. In a more loose and natural way. Without rhetorical devices or debating crutches, with confidence in his mastery of the subject, and certainty that he can beat Cameron in a blood and thunder tussle.
Because at the moment, Miliband isn’t backing himself in these exchanges, and as a result it looks like he’s doing PMQs by numbers. And that’s only sustainable for so long…