This week was a little Deja-PMQ. It was a patchwork of some of the worst elements of the last six months of these gruelling (for the
viewer) encounters. We all remember when David Cameron killed satire at PMQs. Labour tweeters beware, the Prime Minister – or at least someone paid by the public purse to prepare him for PMQs – is watching your tweets. Matt Zarb-Cousin got just the faintest of mentions (and not by name). He didn’t receive – as we shall come to know it – the full Bozier, but the references to online personalities is becoming something of a leitmotif for the PM. Soon they won’t be special – everyone will have one.
Another PMQs lowlight in recent months was the Flashman explosion, otherwise known as “calm-down-dear-gate”. Until today, that was the apex of Cameron’s cool-losing. Today, riled by Ed Miliband, he appeared to surpass that. Every answer was a shout, a bark or a yelp. The “crimson tide” of facial reddening that indicates his ire was a Terracotta Tsunami today, washing away his sense of proportion. It looked awful.
And what was it that had so irked our not-so-amiable (call me Dave) PM? The NHS. Ironically the man who so desperately wanted Labour to “calm down” and listen “Listen to the doctor” wasn’t quite so keen to “Calm down Dave, and Listen to the Doctors.”
That’s doctors (plural, GPs), rather than Doctor (singular, mysetery medic) Dave, if you’re reading. I know you’re such a fan of lefty online media.
But I digress – and it’s an unfair digression because it detracts attention from Ed Miliband, who gave by far his best PMQs performance
today. Six questions, all on the NHS, and he won the resulting verbal jousts resulting from each and every one. No gags, fewer stats, more narrative, and incredible discomfort for the rattled PM, who tried to dig himself out of a hole with a Gordon Brown-esque stat list.
Alas, even with this tactic (now as much of a Cameron tactic as it was for his predecessor) Miliband bested him. He defended Labour’s proud record on the NHS. If Cameron was Brown, suddenly Miliband was…dare I say it? Blair And even if I don’t dare to say it, Adam Boulton did. I actually stood up watching it. “I think he’s starting to believe”, I muttered – like a low-rent blogger version of Morpheus in the Matrix. Except in that moment, he actually did seem to believe in himself. The confidence is back. The same couldn’t be said of Andrew Lansley, who looked like a man who has been eating a bag of raisins, only to be told that those aren’t, in fact, raisins.
In many ways today was a reheated stew of some of the worst elements of Cameron’s reign over PMQs – the death of satire, Flashman, Listen to the Doctor and the PM’s inner Gordon Brown. Cameron was poor, but Ed Miliband won’t care a jot. He bested the PM comprehensively today. That’s three wins in a row. Now that is momentum. And that, I do dare to say…