PMQs verdict: Cameron's blows rain down on Miliband

David Cameron back on rare form at PMQs
David Cameron back on rare form at PMQs
Ian Dunt By

David Cameron seems more lifeless and disinterested by the day, so it comes as a shock when he gets the fire in his belly. It came as more of a shock to Ed Miliband, who got a proper thumping today and sat lifeless afterwards, his hands folded on his lap, staring at the middle distance.

You wouldn't have predicted it. Cameron entered the chamber for PMQs with his usual barely-concealed indifference.  Before he even arrived he seemed desperate to leave. Like all prime ministers, he grows to despise PMQs more by the day. Having given up on prime ministerial press conferences it's really the only bit of scrutiny he gets, apart from the sleep-inducing inquiries of the liaison committee.

Miliband began his questions on the violence in the Middle East. Everyone's heart sank. No-one cares what the UK thinks about the Middle East and the two parties go out of their way to find common ground. Realistically, neither leader is ever going to say they want more violence and bloodshed on both sides. So they are reduced to insisting they want less violence and bloodshed on both sides, which, of course, is what everyone wants, bar Hamas and the Israeli government, who want more violence and bloodshed on the other side.

After several gruelling minutes of telling each other how right they were, Miliband asked whether Cameron would support Palestine's bid for enhanced observer status at the UN. Finally – some meat. The two parties do actually disagree on this. Labour is all for it. The Tories are against it, because the Yanks don't like it. If Labour was in power it would also therefore be against it. But it isn't, it's in opposition. So it's for it.

Miliband made his point, Cameron disagreed. And just as it looked as if we were about to have a genuine, honest-to-God debate on the merits of a practical route to Palestinian statehood, Miliband sat down and ended his first round of questions.
The Labour leader spent the pause organising his papers, putting a few of them on the desk in front of him, staring pointedly at someone down the bench and then entering what appears to be a trance state. It didn't do him much good.

He resumed by asking Cameron about Andrew Lansley's pledge to prevent any rationing on the basis of cost on the NHS. The PM's answer was appalling, as usual. He went all the way back to that stock response about Labour supporting NHS cuts. He's been using it for two years now.

In response, Miliband bravely tried to quote the director of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists. It is an awkward word for his mouth – for any mouth really-but especially his. You could tell he had been plasticising it before the session. He committed to it with commendable bravado, however, not once but twice.

All it earned it was another stock response about waiting lists from Cameron, prompting the Labour leader to reply: "He has no idea what's going on on the ground. Last Thursday the people of Corby spoke for the country."

The mention of last week's lost by-election, triggered by the departure of new Tory public enemy number one Louise Mensch, sparked some fire in the PM's belly. He came alive, like a red-faced Frankenstein's monster. "Last Thursday the people of Humberside spoke for the whole nation," he barked back, referring to John Prescott's humiliating defeat as police commissioner. The Tory benches loved it.

He went on to quote the former deputy PM in full campaign mode, with a passage in which he insisted the vote was a referendum on the government. Miliband looks shocked at the ferocity of Cameron's answer. In recent weeks the Labour leader had compared himself to Disraeli and Thatcher, the prime minister observed. He said he was more eurosceptic than Bill Cash and more positive about Europe than Tony Blair. "He's impersonated more politicians than Rory Bremner."

The hammer-blows just rained down, one after another. By the time he was done Labour was stunned into silence and the Tory backbenches were deafening. For a moment, Cameron almost looked happy to be there.

Final score: Miliband: 0 Cameron: 2

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