PMQs verdict: Cut the gags, Ed

14th December, 2011 1:06 pm

It could have been so different.

Before PMQs it seemed certain that Miliband would focus on Europe and try to drive another wedge between the increasingly “isolated” DPM and his Tory masters. All of the material was there if Miliband wanted it.

But then this morning’s unemployment figures presented themselves. Miliband has had some success in recent months tackling Cameron on the specifics of his Economic plans. So off Miliband went – rightly – in attacking the PM on that.

The usual PMQs dance then began – Ed asks some policy questions, Cameron refuses to accept the premise of the question, and whoever shouts loudest claims victory. So far, so normal.

It was when Miliband switched to Europe that everything started to go wrong. And it went wrong because of a fundamental weakness in Miliband’s technique – his jokes aren’t that good and he’s not that funny. While a scripted gag in a speech can work well – see Margaret Thatcher’s befuddled “Dead Parrot” reference – but in a verbal jousting session like PMQs all but the best one liners come across contrived and forced.

The problem is compounded by the act that Cameron actually is rather witty and quick on his feet. More often than not that reveals itself in Flashman style hot-headedness and unnecessary attacks, but sometimes – through planning or quick wit – it works. Cameron is a performer, flying by the seat of his pants with little grasp of detail.

Miliband’s mistake – and today was the perfect exemplar of that – is to try and take him on his own territory, the gag stakes. No-one is ever going to mistake Ed Miliband for a comic. Instead he should play to his strengths. He’s a serious and thoughtful man for serious times. He has a fantastic grasp of detail. He’s passionate. That’s the tactic he should have used today.

When Cameron responded to Ed’s question about the PM/DPM split on the EU with the “not brothers” zinger, Ed should have retained his composure, and responded with a straight bat:

“Why is the Prime Minister making jokes about the most public split between a Prime Minister and his Deputy in a generation? If I were a Lib Dem MP I’d wonder if this was really a laughing matter,” he could have said.

Instead he seemed to stick to the script, knocked off balance by Cameron, and tried to end with a joke of his own. A flat little parp of a gag, unfitting for the occasion and limp in comparison to Cameron’s.

He doesn’t do gags well. He has so many other strengths. When he’s been at his best at PMQs he’s played to those strengths. He can win again, if he sticks to them in future.

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  • I am not a Labour supporter but I do believe that in a successful democracy we need to have an effective opposition.

    I get so frustrated at Ed Milibands failures at PMQs.  I agree with the author. Ed Miliband needs to stick to what he knows best, he can then be effective. 

    I know polls of Labour supporters show that they are also frustrated with his failures.  When Ed Miliband is bestest by Cameron at PMQs he just sits there sulking. 

    Come on Ed, get a grip.

  • derek

    So many doubts now about Miliband and I’ve no idea why he had Alexander sitting next to him? who the hell wants to listen to Alexander? Balls ruffles the feathers.

  • Hugh

    “He has so many other strengths.”

    I don’t see the evidence. A fantastic grasp of detail isn’t proved by aides’ ability to pick out a detail for him to quiz Cameron on weekly, and his thoughtfulness isn’t evident in his attacks on the Tories, which are neither subtle nor insightful.

    He may in fact have the attributes you mention, but he’s hamstrung by a lack of ideas, courage or integrity – I suspect a mix of all three – as illustrated by his attempt to find a non existent middle way on almost every issue, whether it’s public spending, the strikes and now the EU treaty. Labour never should have elected a leader standing on a platform of nothing more than a now seemingly endless policy review.

    • Anonymous

      He was commended by many for his conference speech,
      including analyists from across the political divide.
      Even Dave C adopted one of his ideas!
      (The “something for nothing culture” etc.)

      I personally think he’s at his best in the Q+A setting directly with the public; 
      not the forced and staged theatrics of PMQ’s.

      It’s just playing to the gallery- and as Dave C has a TV/media background,
      probably plays to his strengths.

      I don’t think the average person will be so easily impressed though;
      it will take much more than being a smooth talker.

      I think events will be the final arbiter of opinion;
      but as for “qualities” of politicans; “substance over style”
      every time will convince.


      • Hugh

        He was slated by as many as he was commended for his conference speech. As for its substance, where are we with that test to differentiate between good and “predator” companies? Cameron is also good – I’d argue better – at Q&A; I think I remember him doing some in the run up to the election; Blair was also better in that environment- the assumption that it’s somehow more difficult or worthy doesn’t seem to be backed by much. Why it should be considered a feat that a career politician used to being grilled by Paxman or Humphries can field a few questions from members of the public has always baffled me. It’s also easier to be more natural in a more natural setting.

        Furthermore, there’s not much evidence for the proposition that it takes much more than being a smooth talker to be successful in politics or that “substance over style” convinces. I rather remember the same arguments being made about Brown. Even on your own terms the argument fails: Cameron is the flash salesman and all style over substance, and ultimately the public opt for substance – yet Cameron beat Brown and he’s beating Ed in poll after poll. It’s a similar story with Blair – again slated for a lack of substance (justifiably to an extent) and yet electorally extremely successful. In any case, Brown’s substance was overrated, but Miliband’s is, to date, almost entirely theoretical. If it’s not developed more than a year after becoming leader it’s reasonable to question whether it exists. Surely it’s the style that should develop over time; the substance is meant to be there to begin with.

        Finally, as with Brown, there is a fondness for claiming a great intellect in Labour leaders where other attributes are lacking, but again the evidence that Ed is peculiarly bright is underwhelming. Both Cameron and Ed studied PPE at Oxford. Cameron got a First; so did David Miliband. Ed got a 2:1.

        • Anonymous

          Hi Hugh, got to your comments very late I’m afraid- so will try to return
          at later point.

          I found this interesting, but need time to respond.

          In the meantime, could I just add an article which I seem to recall may be relevant:

          “Vindication for Ed(M) is in the air;”

          Polly T, Guardian, 31/10.

          Have also read some very intelligent analysis from S.Richards in the Indy too over time.I like the fact he rises above all the party politics and presents a balanced view.

          It’s always enjoyable to bounce ideas around!

          Cheers, Jo. 

        • Anonymous

          Again, sorry late Hugh; I have to post here intermittently.

          You made some good counter arguments and interesting points I think.

          All of this could be argued in different ways; we all have our own perceptions and expectations, and political slant.

          Mine was based on seeing Ed M speak in person over about 2 hours,
          to an audience of about 2000.

          He took on every person’s question and responded intelligently and thoughtfully; had an amazing capacity to remember several people’s detailed questions in one go at a time.

          But he also reacted with honesty and humility, not just lecturing people or talking at them.

          From a human perspective, that impressed me.
          In other words- I believe him to have excellent qualities and ability to connect to and relate to ordinary people.
          That’s why I get frustrated by the wooden portrayals via media soundbites, and very constrained narratives.
          (That goes for political coverage in general.)

          And theatrics of PMQ’s- it doesn’t suit everyone.

          DC is excellent at playing to the gallery, but it takes much more than that
          to formulate substantive policies and understand the complexities of people’s lives, and scale of social problems.

          I’m sure he has his good points too, but personally I find the endless
          “speeches”changing from one topic to the next each day in lecture mode extremely irritating.It’s always in the same tone, always presented as if to say “I know what’s best.”It’s faintly patronising.
          Especially when it’s something I know about, like working with
          “problem families.”

          Simplistic statments are presented as if a “given” and no public discussion….a fait de complit; top down.

          Maybe all parties are guilty of this, but it needs to change.

          I just think politics isn’t working as it could; it’s all very”them and us.”

          The last thing the public need is lecturing, especially at a time like this
          when many hands on deck will be needed, and interconnectedness of ideas
          from all quarters.

          Fundamentally, I think it’s about the way our democracy operates,
          and what outlets and avenues ordinary people have to express their ideas and share experiences that might actually make a difference in a wider sense.

          Gone off track slightly, but hope that explains more.


  • Ianrobo

    a simple rember to the brothers comment is to say something like, ‘at least I love my brother’ and admit differences, diffuses that line of attack.

    • Anonymous

      I thought that was particularly nasty and below the belt Ian.
      It says more about the person saying it and the way it’s said….

      Still, Ed should steer clear of opening up opportunities like this for attack.

      But DC seems to have no qualms about taking it too far for a few cheap laughs.

      He actually referred to politics as “antics”in the House today,
      so an admittance it’s all rather stage managed and treated like a game.
      All the more reason not to use personal lines of attack.

      All macho style nonsense.

      DC comes across a lot better when he’s answering MP’s questions,
      and not taking swipes and cracking gags.

      When will these politicans ever realise the public
      hate this sort of confrontation and feigned speech?


      • But as we can see on this thread, this is the sort of alpha-male posturing some people value. You and I may look at it with the distaste it deserves but clearly for some it remains an ideal, or at least something they think cannot be changed. Whereas I think it must be changed because its ultimately destructive

        • Anonymous

          I suspect Mike, that most people don’t watch PMQ’s!

          But I do think there is far more nuance and variation in thinking
          across the population; also I can say from experience women tend to
          have a very different perspective, and not easily impressed!

          Most women i know have a practical outlook and down to earth attitude;would not be impressed by showy displays or mere rhetoric.

          I think all the parties will need to do more to attract female voters;
          but at the last count I heard DC was more popular with men;
          women much less so.

          Ed M has good potential- but he needs to drop the wooden speeches for media purposes; it doesn’t bring out his best qualities.

          He just needs to keep it it real in my view.


          • Fully agree on all counts. Actually, PMQ’s is simply a soundbite machine for the press and I think where Ed has done best, he hasn’t played the game and has simply not given DC the ability to play the sneering alpha bully

          • Dave Postles


  • Anonymous

    Good analysis.  I have always struggled to “get” Ed’s stage presence which, to some extent sadly, is a required trait for any aspiring politician in the country today.

    Oddly, I’m not quite sure I can put my finger on why I feel that way, but I don’t think I am alone in doing so. I’m also sure Ed’s team will have spent some time on his presentation, so it is perplexing that they have not managed to make better progress in this time.

    Bottom line is this: it has not been a good December for Ed M.

  • Dave Postles

    I don’t see the point of any of it.  I’ll stick with the ribaldry of Steve Bell, who has perceived the real characteristics of Cameron.

  • Cllr Dave

    ‘He’s a serious and thoughtful man for serious times. He has a fantastic grasp of detail. He’s passionate.’ sounds like a comment on GB’s public performances. Surely it isn’t that bad for us!

  • Li’l Ed is never going to hack it next to Big Dave. Most of their PMQ confrontations are embarrassingly one-sided. Even the Beeb finds it hard to cover up the fact. Labour will get nowhere until it dumps him. He may be a genuine and intelligent politician with a superb grasp of the facts but the reality is he looks and sounds like a nerd and the great British public are shallower than a puddle.

  • Anonymous

    Why the fuss? 

    No doubt this will recur regularly within the next 4 years.

    You have clearly chosen the wrong brother.

    • Anonymous

      I would prefer David to be Labour leader, but he also has problems with articulacy. His contribution to the Today programme a few days ago was woefully unclear. His advantage over Ed is that he’s much more statesmanlike and has a better grasp of the big picture. He would still struggle against the quicksilver Cameron at PMQs, but he would be taking the right positions strategically and the public could believe in him as a potential PM. They cannot believe in Ed as a potential PM, and so Ed’s leadership is pointless and frustrating.

  • Steven Nash

    The great thing about Ed is that we can recycle the same kind of comments we made a few years ago about Gordon Brown.

    See how well it fits:

    “No-one is ever going to mistake Gordon Brown for a comic. Instead he should play to his strengths. He’s a serious and thoughtful man for serious times. He has a fantastic grasp of detail. He’s passionate. That’s the tactic he should have used today.”

    • Anonymous

      That’s a nail being hammered squarely on the head. If you have make excuses about your leader’s inarticulacy and lack of charisma, you’re better off facing up to the fact that your leader lacks some key leadership skills.

      • Anonymous

        Not everyone is good at shouting and bellowing in PMQ’s Harry!
        That’s probably a strength in my book…..

        We’d probably all feel a bit awkward in that situation…


        • Anonymous

          Shouting is bad. I don’t want Ed to start to bellow. I want Ed to think more quickly on his feet and just *debate* better. Alas, Cameron is really good at this. You get a lot of debating practice in the kind of education he had.

          But Ed’s defeats at PMQs would not matter so much if he were taken seriously as an alternative PM. The bigger problem is that no-one can imagine him representing Britain at the EU summit.

          • Anonymous

            I agree with what you say about DC and PMQ’s in general Harry.

            But people develop into these roles, as DC himself had about 4 years to do prior to becoming PM?

            I remember him appearing alongside M.Lipman on a chat show appearing very meek and mild; it was quite surprising.
            I think he was a bit in awe; but he certainly didn’t have that outward show of charisma, which I think comes with experience and confidence.

            Conversely with Ed M, he doesn’t always appear his best in the media spotlight, but that may be partly because he’s often speaking in a pre prepared style which sounds wooden.

            But in person, much more warm and engaging.

            DC could sell anything I suspect; but over time this may become repetitive.

            If Ed M can draw more from himself and speak directly whenever possible- it will ring true and connect with people in my view.

            Of course- then there is the big question about policy and direction of party; and I don’t think we’ve heard anywhere near enough.


        • GuyM

          Leadership and management are two different things. I’ve met many good managers who were terrible leaders and vice versa.

          I would have though the leader of a politial party needs both traits in bucketloads.

          Leadership means leading from the front on occasion and encouraging the “troops”. Leadership is a fairly militaristic trait and may not be to everyone’s liking.

          But, you really can’t have a go at the PM for having leadership skills that come out at PMQs simply because Milliband doesn’t have them. You wouldn’t have complained had it been Blair, Smith, Wilson or Callaghan at the dispatch box, so it seems disingenuous to do so now just because your man is weak in certain aspects.

          • Which is exactly why I don’t think there is any point in left-of-centre parties pursuing a leadership style which is so different from the policies they are promoting. 

            There is no promised land to be ‘led’ to. I don’t actually wish to be led. I’m not a sheep.

          • Anonymous

            Why on earth would leadership be incompatible with left-wing policies? 

          • That sort of macho alpha-male leadership fits the type of society and the sort of policies Cameron wishes to follow. 

            I don’t actually believe in ‘leadership’, I think its largely about people failing to think for themselves and wanting someone to ‘follow’

          • Anonymous

            Mike, I just left you a comment, but it seems to have gone somewhere else and I can’t find it!!


          • GuyM

            I’ve seen organisations, groups and businesses where there is a vacuum of leadership. Invariably it isn’t pretty and more often than not dissovles into acrimony.

            Someone needs to lead, someone needs to take decisions (best after effective consultation), management by committee is really not very effective.

            Can I politely suggest your real world experiences are not that relevant on this subject to the world the majority of the UK have to operate in.

          • It really doesn’t appear that your way has worked all that well, though, Guy, does it?

          • GuyM

            On the contrary, capitalism is competition and capitalism is a far better option than anything else tried so far.

            Plus it has worked very well for me so far in life, so with respect I’m in no hurry to change to a more touchy feely GuyM just yet.

          • Problem is that it requires losers and the social consequences of that can’t be ignored forever. I’m seriously concerned that we are creating another workless generation in some parts of the country

          • GuyM

            At school, you pick a soccer team and you get loses. play the matches and one side loses, sit exams and some “lose”, apply for Uni and some “lose”, apply for jobs and some “lose”, pitch for business and some  “lose”…. and on and on and on.

            Life is about winning and losing, hiding from that reality helps no one.

        • Anonymous

          Your out to win an election, you had better learn fast how to put down the opposition, otherwise your not going to win.

          The Tories were out of power not because Blair was a great leader he was not, it was due to second rate politicians in the Tories who could not touch Blair or Brown.

          Cameron is poor, he has little style, problem is Milibands put down and political killer punches are in the same style as Kinnocks.

      • Steven Nash

        He’s been awful at PMQs for the vast majority of the time, but it’s ok because PMQs “don’t matter” to anyone outside political obsessives and the Westminster village.

        He’s not very good at giving the traditional conference speech, so let’s ignore that too and just argue that he just shouldn’t do them at all.

        He’s crap at delivering jokes at PMQs, so let’s just stop doing them and focus on the old ‘serious man for serious times’ line (because that worked out so well for Brown).

        And so we continue to bury our collective heads in the sand, trotting out a mixture of the same excuses we made for Brown and increasingly preposterous new ones in the hope that maybe things will work out differently this time! 

        Sorry, but they won’t. 

        #EdDoesntGetIt. The sooner he goes, the sooner we can actually start looking like a credible alternative government with a leader that looks like the next Prime Minister – Ed does not, and never will.

  • Steven Nash

    Interesting that the default view is ‘order by popularity’ – makes for very confusing reading when reading other peoples threaded conversation I’d wager.

  • John Ruddy

    I think over the break, Ed needs to sit down with his advisors. He might need to change some of them, too. But he needs to look back at tapes of PMQs and see what went well (there are some) and what went badly (theres too many, I fear).

    He needs to work on doing more of the better things, and less of the bad things.

    On today’s performance, its clear – he should have stuck to the economy. He also needs to learn when to deviate from the script – or at least have an alternative script to use should things not go so well, or to press home an advantage if things go unexpectedly well (like today). If the first 3 questions on the economy put Dave on the back foot, Ed should have prepared an extra 3 questions on the economy to hit him with, instead of using the pre-scripted second batch on Europe.

    • Anonymous

      My impression is that Ed is very well advised, and his failings are his own. At PMQs, for example, he is usually better briefed than Cameron. On numerous occasions he has asked clever, subtle, searching questions that Cameron has been unable to answer. The problem is that Cameron dodges answering with confidence and elan, and easily puts the pressure back on Ed. And that works. The unpalatable truth is that style trumps substance at PMQs, and Ed doesn’t have much style.
      As for ‘sticking to the economy’, if the leader of the opposition cannot raise the matter of the EU summit in such a momentous week as this, for fear of being bested, then that is pretty good evidence he is not fit to be Prime Minister. So I’m glad he did raise it, even if he botched it. 

      • Which is why I think that he (and we) should downgrade the importance of PMQ’s. Ask questions. Don’t try and play Cameron’s silly games, because style is why we are in this mess in the first place.

        And I wish those people who are trying to undermine the party would leave – they are doing untold harm. When Blair decided to become a war criminal, I left the party. These pathetic individuals care only about surface level nonsense yet don’t even have the courage of their convictions.

        And when will they realise that if Ed goes as a result of their underhand disloyalty and plotting, the replacement will certainly not be someone else called Miliband! Cooper or Balls – and they will have far less time for their plotting or interest in keeping them on board

        • Anonymous

          You’re always popping up asking other people to leave the party. I can’t think of anything much more disloyal and counterproductive than that.

          I suspected Ed might struggle as leader, but I will campaign for him to become PM – he would be a huge improvement on Cameron – and I would be delighted if he proved me wrong by winning a general election. 

          For six months or so I avoided posting anything negative about Ed, but now it seems to me that the media and the voters have made their minds up about him, and there’s nothing to be lost by my being honest on the subject. I think he’s squandering a reasonable position for the party, being just a few seats behind the Tories at a time of economic catastrophe. Yet we are not competitive, and we are long odds-against forming the next Govt.

          • The only contributions you ever make are negative ones. Whereas if you know anything about the party and the way it works, you will know that it is exceptionally unlikely that the party will change its leader this side of a General Election. This, negative comments really do very little good other than make you feel better.
            If there were a whole load of people waiting in the wings who would be a load better and there was general agreement on this, but there isn’t.  The other options would be even more divisive.

            What I think is being missed by many Labour supporters here is that the Tories and Labour are close together because a significant proportion of the electorate likes and agrees with what the Tories are doing.  Guy M, who I disagree with on almost everything, actually gets this. There are others here, particularly from the Blairite side of the party, who thinks that with a different leader and more Tory-ish policies, we can storm into a convincing lead. I think that is nonsense. We live in a very divided society and its getting more not less divided. Those who support the Tories and those who support us are actually two very stable blocs. The differences between the two are small, numerically, and the polls reflect this.

            It may well be a question of who can motivate their ‘ bloc ‘  the most effectively but that will depend on what the situation is in 2015.

          • GuyM

            Hard to disagree with any of this Mike. I respect your views even if I detest what they mean in practice more often that not [I’m sure the feeling is mutual :)]

            I do agree with the point about things becoming ever more divided. I don’t think it matters who wold be in power now, a large group of the population would hate them for what they were.

            One of the reasons I’m gald to be well out of politics and hoping to be left in peace and quiet to make a bit of wealth and retire somewhere quiet and peaceful.

          • Steven Nash

            “if you know anything about the party and the way it works, you will know that it is exceptionally unlikely that the party will change its leader this side of a General Election”

            True- and this has to change and it’s not too late to sort it out if we do it now!  

            Must we wait for another post mortem after electoral failure where ex members of the shadow cabinet acknowledge that they knew the leader wasn’t any good but didn’t do anything about it?

      • John Ruddy

        I think that his performance at PMQs show that he isnt very well advised. He may be very well briefed – but thats something subtly different.

        As I said, an objective look at what works well for him (and to do more of it) and what obviously doesnt (and do less of it) is surely common sense?

        I wasnt making a comment about the subject matter per se (“sticking to the economy”) rather about being able to go with what is working well, and dumping what is not,  on the hoof. Look at how well Ed did in the Erope statement on Monday. The mood in the chamber however can be quite fickle, and the best performers at PMQs will be able to change direction to capture the mood of the house. Cameron was on the back foot on the economy (as he could easily have been on Europe) he just needed to carry on and deliver the killing blow.

        It might even have been the order he asked the questions in. If Ed had started on Europe, that subject might have had more effect. He needs to think on his feet more  – and that means more preparation.

  • Mack

    Miliband is a political obsessive who is incapable of seeing any other point-of-view other than that determined by his own – very limited – experience.  His Pavlovian opposition to every Government policy highlights his inability to offer a tangible alternative. That’s why the public doesn’t trust Labour.

    Millibands latest contortions on Europe serve perfectly to illlustrate the point.  Does anyone really believe that he would have protected Britain’s interests?  No. He would have signed on the dotted line – suitably propped up the the leaders of the Euro suicide pact, Merkel and Sarkozy

  • Carole

    I don’t think that your suggested rejoinder to Cameron’s remark,’at least we’re not brothers’  would have been effective, when the Blair/Brown split was effectively public knowledge and they were actually  in the same party!

  • Pingback: After PMQs Labour Insiders Doubt Ed Miliband Last Out 2012 - Guy Fawkes' blog()

  • Jay

    Yes he should stick to his strengths; whatever they are: they certainly don’t include leading a political party.  Bye bye Eddie.

  • Anonymous

    I agree entirely with what you say about Ed’s strengths Mark.

    I’ve added my views on dynamics between them before;
    the big mistake being made I think is that Ed is playing the game
    as defined by Cameron; he can never win on that. 

    He has to develop a different strategy that plays to his strengths.

    DC is the smooth talker; he’s perfected it; it was probably part of his
    education too; all that ex”public school boy” outward confidence and bravado.

    But I suspect some of it is very “surface;”and he’s a master at deflection.

    I saw Ed M in person a few months back at the people’s policy forum;
    there was a big contrast between the prepared speeches and the
    spontaneous discussion face to face with the public.

    He was clever, witty, open and honest; also not afraid to show humility.
    He genuinely connected with people;listened carefully to some very challenging
    concerns; retained all the detailed information- and addressed with great substance
    and thoughtfulness.

    No doubt Dave C would be skilful in that situation also; but the difference is-
    Ed appears to mean what he says; doesn’t just produce speeches that all
    sound the same on a variety of topics.

    It will take nerves of steel, and some skill to get beyond Dave C’s “front.”

    But I’m hoping that if Ed can hold his nerve and be prepared to undertake
    some sort of skiils training (perhaps?)it may give him more of a range of
    “tools” to choose from, and be more in control of how he is able to manage
    the interaction.

    Probably, stick with the facts and figures; argue the case skilfully;
    use real anecdotes to back up’ limit the gratuitous point scoring;
    don’t provoke angry exchanges from the outset by being
    directly confrontational; anger just sets off more anger;
    it becomes too defensive and detracts from a meaningful discussion.

    There’s also a piece on the T’graph from B.Brogan about PMQ’s
    which I’ve just added to blogs along similar lines.

    I just hope Ed M deosn’t get too deflated by listening to all the chatter,
    speculation and wishful thinking out there!

    Stick to your guns Ed- but try a different line…..
    DC is not as tough as he makes out in my view,
    and many possibilities exist.

    Thanks, Jo.

    • GuyM

      Ever seen Cameron at a private Tory event? If not you have no way of comparing the two together so do stop with the inane guess ay who is more “genuine” or not.

      As i don’t spend my spare time hanging around the PM or Leader of the Opposition I have no idea as to their personal qualities in private and neither do you.

      It seems your gripe is that the PM is a skilled performer at PMQs and it isn’t fair he had a good education… much fairer if he droppped out of some bog standard comp at 16 and was a crap public speaker?

      Cameron at PMQs is there to drive Milliband into the ground, not play nicey nicey. Sometimes he does that, sometimes he doesn’t. PMQs is not meant to be a group hug or discussion on jam making for the local WI (although my wife’s experience of the WI is that jam making is ultra competitive – as Kirsty’s TV show seems to back up).

      Life is competitive, politics is competitive and PMQs ultra competitive. No one gets anywhere by being the meak shrinking violet. Or as the wife of a family friend says “man up” (not something a bloke could say for fear of sexism), but then she is a barrister.

      • And your last paragraph sums up exactly why we are all in such a state. 

        • GuyM

          And you intend to change that how exactly?

          Forced recruitment for positions of leadership of people with no leadership skills?

          PMQs is an adversarial debate… moaning “whaaaa it isn’t fair” when one side gets a debating bloody nose really looks weak to the public.

          I’m not a “new man”, never met any and I’m thankful for that. Life is tough, every day is competitive. Business, job interviews, sports, politics…. if you don’t like competition then I feel sorry for you because as of yet I’ve not seen jobs handed out to the worst candidates just to make them feel better.

          • I simply look at the result of this system and the sort of society it has brought us. Not good, is it?

          • GuyM

            Nothing is perfect and the current situation is better than the alternatives on offer.

          • That’s where we disagree. I think we must be able to do better than this

          • GuyM

            But you can’t provide any evidence of past examples to show how a move to the left would improve matters.

      • Anonymous

        I think you could do with a crash course in personal skills too Guy.

        • GuyM

          Maybe, it’s in the eyes of the beholder more often than not. I’ve never wanted to make friends at work, only do the job, which these days is management and leadership.

          The House of Commons is adversarial, life is competitive, we are brought up on a diet of competitive sports (we ahve the biggest comeptitve sports jamboree in London in a few months), every time you go to a job interview you are competing.

          Much as some of the left has tried to remove aspects of a competitive instinct from schools and the public sector it won’t ever suceed.

          PMQs, like life, is highly competitive with a big head to head of the two leaders. You might not like the look of it but it is what it is and you aren’t going to change it anytime soon. Therefore either select a leader who can handle it or live with the odd dire performance.

          • This is the problem – we need more co-operation to achieve. We are simply not going to be able to ‘compete’ against countries which in future years will be able to utilise huge populations and their ability to produce, to control trade. This entire model will no longer work for us and we have to decide whether to take a step back and try and do things differently.  Or accept the role of ‘losers’ in a competition

          • GuyM

            I’ve heard this for years, often from members of the public.

            How on earth do you expect Labour and Tories to “co-operate” when they disagree fundamentally on economic policy and Labour needs to differentiate in order to position for an election?

            Also when on earth did Labour “co-operate” when in government?

            I doubt that you and I Mike agree on anything much, how could we possible “co-operate”?

          • Anonymous

            There are good examples of cross party working Guy- eg on some of the committees.
            MP’s like Graham Allen worked with IDS I think on an important report/book around welfare.

            I’m very much in favour of cross party consensus where possible- working in the national interest, and cherry picking talents across the House- and outside for that matter.

          • GuyM

            Committees have no power to do anything, they are a form of investigation and regulation.

            I’d never share power with someone from the left if I was in politics. I believe in a hierarchical structure (I’m happy with it being fairly flat) in organisations, business or politics and I don’t manage/lead by committee.

          • Anonymous

            Thanks for reasonable response Guy.

            Yes, competition is part of life, but it’s not the only factor or the sum total. There are many ways to approach things; different methods of organization, different ways to communicate etc.
            Also, hate to sue the word “culture” of organization- but I think it is key in affecting behaviour; use of language etc.

            I personally think the PMQ’s style is getting outdated; we need something more interactive and a more nuanced debate across all sides of the divide would be interesting.

            I think just shouting at each other and exchanging insults closes down communication between 2 sides, and acheives little.

            I agree with Mike too on the point it’s a macho style that many wouldn’t fit in with.

            Thanks, Jo. 

          • GuyM

            I can’t see any other form of politics in reality. If you look at other parliaments around the world in many respects they are even more aggresive and heated, so I think we don’t do too badly.

            I was always say to the people I manage/lead that I am fully open to having my views challenged, to having my opinions/plans changed through good analysis and well formed argument by thoers. However I also tell them clearly I do do management by committee, I don’t believe in it and don’t accept it anywhere. Even in the boardroom where a good set up is fairly consensual, you know where ultimate power lies.

            Look at Question Time tonight and tell me if you think it is anything other than more of the same. Labour and Tories will not sit happily and work together, it just won’t happen.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think having the ability to play to the gallery is necessarily
    part of good leadership. It’s just acting.

    It’s very useful to inspire the troops and project an image;
    but there are myriad ways to do that also, depending on the
    strengths and personality of the individual.

    • GuyM

      PMQs is akin to being in combat from a political perspective.

      Destroy the opposition, leave their troops deflated and let your side wallow in triumph in the metaphorical blood of your enemy.

      If you truly think you can come out on top in PMQs week in week out by playing the geek or quiet man you are mistaken.

      I expect Mike to now call me once more “alpha male” in that approach and he would be right. But it won’t change as an alpha male I have no intention of relegating myself in life thanks and I’m sure Cameron is the same.

      • There’s a reason why Labour is ahead with women voters and behind with male ones!

        Personally, I think PMQ’s only works if both participants allow it to. Its relatively easy to sabotage it as an ‘event’ – which I would encourage as i think its a sideshow and an irrelevance

      • Anonymous

        That’s fascinating Guy, but not how I envisage politics to be in total.
        For me, what you describe is the problem itself,
        and why turns many people off.

        For example, during the leadership debates on TV
        at election time, it was found time and again that
        the audiences hated points of conflict and confrontation;
        where some form of consensus or even humour shown-
        far more positive responses.

        (They used some sort of feedback mechanism
        from the audiences present, and compiled a graph.)

        I don’t think people will engage or be impressed by seeing
        representstives of our democracy knocking lumps out of each other
        especially if it’s all for show and merely entertainment.

        If it’s a genuine argument, with some level of mutual respect
        for different positions- that’s far more convincing, and reveals
        a level of professionalism and skill in diplomacy.

        I also think it will help if many more women in Parliament
        to balance out what has probably been some sort of historic banter
        in political culture.
        That’s not to say many men there don’t set a brilliant example
        of civilized behaviour, or that some women don’t engage in this
        tribal banter etc- on all sides.

        I think reform is needed.

        Cheers, Jo. 

  • Anonymous

    Hi Mike- I think you’ve met Ed in person?

    What was your impression, may I ask?

    It’s always very different away from the media glare;
    they are all as human as the rest of us- just playing a role!


    • Only quite briefly. I thought he was very natural and ‘human’, and I certainly wish he would ditch the soundbite style – it doesn’t suit him

      • Anonymous

        Thanks Mike, hopefully he’ll listen to party activists like you and take on board at some point. The members are the party’s greatest asset, and much can be gained by meaningful exchange of ideas.



  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately Ed isn’t an inspirational leader and plays very poorly to non-political people. A lot of them can’t get past how he stood against his brother which was a bit weird to be honest. Hopefully he’ll recognise his evident limitations and fall on his sword before Cameron cuts and runs to the country. We live in hope.

  • Daniel Speight

    Some of Ed Miliband’s critics do point out, quite correctly, his nerdy character. Maybe he isn’t the best guy to have at PMQs. In an age when the media pushes us towards leaders with greater charisma, maybe the British have matured enough, certainly more mature than the Americans, that we can ignore this call for the biggest grin or most tanned orange skin. We should remember what Churchill said about Attlee, “A modest man, but then he has so much to be modest about”, and wasn’t Attlee one of the best leaders Labour had? Not that I’m saying the younger Miliband is another Attlee in the making, but wouldn’t that be nice if he was?

    So anyway Dan Hodges and the other Blairites, if Ed Miliband is nerdy, what does that make his brother? You know the one they asked if he spoke human.

  • Rj285

    Depressing. I was an Ed-backer, worked on his campaign. I think I backed the wrong horse. Even though I disagree with David Miliband’s quasi-Blairism, he is a better leader and far more skillful in articulating the intellectual arguments against this government. Sometimes leadership trumps policy. I failed to see the importance of leadership at the time.

  • Thamesmud

    Face it Eds parrot is dead, he is definite Norwegian Blue on the leadership front his horse has been flogged and still can’t trot.  Can you get a refund under warranty, after all he’s hardly been used and he’s definitely not working  ?

  • Jay

    Please tell me why to vote Labour, given current circumstances (especially mine, working in construction just had my hours cut by 50% and my wage pro rata’d accordingly, it was either that or redundancy) I should be knocking on doors and campaigning for you guys during my spare 20 odd hours per week. However when I see no coherent strategy from you, some shadow ministers criticising the coalition for borrowing too much, others criticising for cutting too much, no one able to answer ‘would you have signed the new european treaty’ I just think that Labour are back in the 80’s The Tories aren’t as popular as Mrs Thatch was but you’ve managed to make yourselves even less electable than them at a time when economic indicators are extremely gloomy, unemployment is going up. Do me a favour give me a reason to vote for you, because until you do you’re not going to win a general election, I see a Tory/UKIP alliance after the next one when the Lierals are wiped out in the south west and replaced by either Tories or most likely UKIPPERs

  • Pingback: The graphs that should worry Ed Miliband | Left Foot Forward()

  • Daniel Speight

    So does the elder Miliband have charisma? Is better able to connect with the people? Never struck me that he would be an improvement on what we have.

  • Pingback: LabourList: Ed Miliband needs to stop trying so hard « Mr Adam Richards()


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