PMQs: Another week, another defeat for desperate Dave

Six months ago, Ed Miliband faced a long holiday period in damp spirits. Six months on, it's the Prime Minister who is sailing close to the rocks, writes Harry Cole

When you can't best Red Ed, you know things aren't looking great
Harry Cole
On 11 July 2012 14:21

Last December, when Ed Miliband sat down after another dismal performance at Prime Ministers Questions, I wrote:

“All this couldn’t have come at a worse time for a struggling party leader. With no real chance to publicly claw back respect and support over the long holiday period, back in the constituencies bruised and upset backbenchers will be texting and chatting, stirring and rumbling.”

What a difference six months can make. When Parliament broke up for Christmas it was Ed on the ropes, now with the prospect of a long wet summer, it’s the Prime Minister that is on the rocks.  

Just when you think the Prime Minister’s weekly bout could never come at a worse time, his backbenchers throw another bucket of muck on their dear leader. Last night’s Lords rebellion set the tone nicely, and a lacklustre Cameron barely looked like he could be bothered to take the hammering. Ed had it easy and toyed with his choice of questions - the sheer breadth of them showing a new confidence.

With barely a flicker of enthusiasm, Cameron went into Gordon-Brown-at-his-very-worst, tractor statistics mode, listing government successes that, while true, remain tedious when bombarded across the floor: “Inflation, unemployment down; biggest exporter of cars; Olympics; Crossrail; et cetera”.  

"The redder he gets, the less he convinces people" said Ed cooly. While that line would have sounded great in front of the mirror, it was not one Ed could pull off.  

In an attempt to wind up the Prime Minister further, Miliband walked into a bear trap and gave Cameron his only chance to fight back. Red - “something he would know all about”. “Red Ed, Red Ken, Red Len” - a gruesome threesome for sure, but merely a flesh wound for the opposition leader.

A couple of glimmers of hope for the divided and bruised government benches -- it seems Cameron is once again trailing election 2015 (or sooner now): “we back the workers, they back the shirkers” is a winner.

Slippery slugs like Emily Thornberry slithered onto the scene in the closing seconds to demand an apology for the alleged slur on Ed Balls by the Chancellor. It backfired though as it gave Cameron the chance to reel off every question that Balls has to answer about his time in government.

It was long but again not enough to pull Cameron out of his mire. By the end of all these lists the only person that looked like he needed a holiday more than the view was the PM himself.

Harry Cole is the UK Political Editor for The Commentator. He tweets at @MrHarryCole where you can catch up on his musings as well as his work for the Guido Fawkes blog

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