Today Ed Miliband have his strongest PMQs performance in months – and possibly ever. Unfortunately for David Cameron that coincided with surely his worst PMQs performance. Placed on the rack over Europe, he was mocked, criticised, battered and beaten by Miliband in what is now becoming the Labour leader’s standard style – that of a disappointed lecturer chiding a wayward pupil.
And today there was much to chide.
Did the Prime Minister still believe, as he did when he became Tory leader, that his party talks too much about Europe? As opening zingers go, it was a good ‘un. MPs on both sides of the chamber guffawed, as did the Prime Minister. Taken aback, he never recovered. Instead he chose to try and talk out the questions by waffling on incessantly until it became quite hard to remember what Miliband was asking about. Except each time another relentless question wave would lap against the banks of Cameron’s front bench – Europe, Europe, Europe.
And like in his shambolic Today Programme interview on Monday, Cameron still has no idea how to answer any of the questions on Europe with anything approaching confidence. He’s caught between his own views in Europe and the rampant Europhobia of so many in his party. He’s desperate to knock the EU into the long grass as an issue, but he keeps on missing the ball.
It was embarrassing to watch.
In The Thick of It, Tory MP Peter Mannion refers to the comments section of blogs as “the shit room door”. Except for the Tory Party, the real “shit room door” is Europe – and Cameron has seen it flung open, only to note to his utter dismay that he’s incapable of closing it again. Time and energy will be expelled in the effort, but it won’t do him much good. All of the nastiness will pour out anyway. It wasn’t supposed to be this way – Europe was supposed to be a settled issue. He had thrown the wolves some Eurosceptic meat by leaving the mainstream European People’s Party. It was never going to be enough for them though, and if he’s not careful, they will devour him.
In the end, his only response to a sound thrashing from Miliband today was to lie, claiming that Labour would take Britain into the Euro. In reality, his arch nemesis Ed Balls (with whom he is obsessed somewhat) helped keep Britain out of the single currency. But when all else failed today, when bluster, long winded responses and rhetoric failed to find their mark, Cameron reached for the facts on Britain’s relationship with Europe. And he was found wanting there too…