PMQs: The inevitable questions, the morning after

After being booed at the Paralympics and a stressful forty-eight hours of reshuffling his team, the Prime Minister was greeted back at PMQs with a mixed bag, writes Harry Cole

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Will the reshuffle save the Prime Minister?
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Harry Cole
On 5 September 2012 13:05

So after boos at the Paralympics and a stressful forty-eight hours of reshuffling his team, you would forgive the Prime Minister a curse or two when he saw the order sheet for the first Prime Minister’s Questions of the new school year.

First up was Dennis Skinner, Labour’s “Beast of Bolsover”, famed for his barbed comments and for not holding his punches.

The Beast savaged the reshuffle but pushed things a bit far when he demanded an election.

Next on the list was Cameron’s rebellious backbench maiden, Nadine Dorries, who has been on the receiving end of his acid tongue in this arena.

She was on best behaviour this time, sort of. That didn’t stop her attacking the Prime Minister’s Liberal Democrat coalition partners though.

While it was awkward, Nadine has been far harsher on her boss in the same slot previously.

And then there was Ed Miliband, not famed for his awkward questions.

True to form he came out of the blocks flailing around, ironically, with a question about dithering. He failed to deliver and the PM took an early lead: “he’s had all summer to think of a question, is that really the best he could do?”

Seemingly so.

Sliding over traps set by the leader of the opposition it started to look as if the summer break and a reinvigorated team had done Cameron some good, but he let the good run go to his head with a rather odd choice of words about Eds Balls and Miliband:

“I’ve got my first choice as Chancellor; he’s got his third choice and he still has to take him coffee in the morning. That’s how butch the Leader of the Opposition is."

Butch?

Butch

Adjective:

Manlike or masculine in appearance or behavior, typically aggressively or ostentatiously so.

Noun:

A mannish lesbian, often contrasted with a more feminine partner.

Amusing as this may be when applied to the relationship between the two Eds on the Labour front bench, it’s hardly a Prime Ministerial comeback.

Continuing later, the PM stressed his point :

“The big difference in British Politics is I don’t want to move my Chancellor and he’s too weak to move his.”

While this is true, if you have to keep saying it, people tend to believe you less.

This week’s reshuffle has certainly fired up Westminster, but this outing of PMQs proved that the jury is still out on whether it will be enough to turn around Cameron’s ailing premiership.

I remain in two minds about the movements; while some key posts have been beefed up and some right-leaning people promoted, any talk of the much needed shift to the right is far too premature.

No government with Nick Clegg and his cronies in its highest echelons could ever be described as right wing.

While Cameron was under pressure to be bold and radical, some of the moves do strike me as overkill. Mainly the shift of Jeremy Hunt to health.

If there was to be a radical shift  in that department it should have been done at the height of the NHS bill mess.

Now the Act is in law and happening, a tacit admission that it was wrong was foolish - especially as Andrew Lansley was the only person in the room who knew exactly what the changes are about.

Promoting Hunt after his run in with the Murdochs certainly showed some cojones from the Prime Minister.

It was a mighty nose-thumb to the left and the BBC who went out of their way to try destroy the then Culture Secretary.

So the jury is out; the reshuffle will not save the Prime Minister but it certainly bought him a stay of excecution.

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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