PMQs: Miliband's momentum momentarily melts away...

Where there was a glimpse of Ed as PM material last week, the only comparison being made today - when he missed an open goal - is simply: Kinnock

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Cameron holds his own against Miliband today
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Harry Cole
On 31 October 2012 13:25

Last week Ed Miliband seemed to have eaten an entire pack of Weetabix.

He kicked the Prime Minister around the block, reminding us that danger of 'Prime Minister Miliband' is a very real one.

This week, despite the ground being ripe for a repeat kicking, Ed went flat, got muddled and was clearly poorly advised.

Whoever recommended that he place Europe at the top of the bill did the Labour leader a great disservice. Labour’s stance on today’s budget vote is nothing but opportunism and the Prime Minister was well prepared for the assault.

While Ed may be correct in stating that the PM has an opportunity for a strong “mandate from the house for a real terms cut”, he is the wrong person to be making that point. Labour has persistently campaigned against 'the cuts' in the UK, all the while maintaining that if they were in government, Labour too would have 'difficult decisions to take'. 

Cameron’s dagger eyes said it all but he calmly debunked the notion that Labour could ever take the budget highground given that they surrendered half of the UK’s rebate and voted through massive increases in EU spending on their watch.

For once it seems Cameron is in touch in saying, “the whole country see through rank opportunism”

One of Ed’s greatest strengths is when he is able to ad lib and get away from scripted lines, but for the first half of today’s bout he stuck rigidly to the pre-written points, despite the fact the “crimson tide” gag, suggesting Cameron goes red in the face when frustrated. It was funny when he first deployed it a year ago. It was today neither accurate nor fresh.

By the time that Cameron reached his pièce de résistance -  why did Labour’s own MEPs vote against the budget freeze Ed is now backing - the ball was firmly in the PM’s court.

Splitting his questions, Ed managed to pull some points back by focusing on Lord Heseltine’s spectacularly helpful report on growth. There was a glimpse of humour when he attacked Vince Cable for forgetting he had attended the Growth Committee, leaving the doddery Business Secretary looking like he had dropped his fake teeth into his cuppa.

Sticking to the script again, Ed was clearly very proud of his line that the PM was “weak abroad, weak at home, it’s John Major all again.” Last week that line would have worked, but it sounded pathetic when Ed had just had his backside served to him on a plate. Rare.

The PM will enjoy his beef and claret this week, a post PMQs tradition, the gloss of the win won’t do him as much good as the glass of wine though - he’s got one hell of a fight of his hands to avoid a defeat in the Commons tonight thanks to that very same opportunism from Ed who is siding with the Tory rebels.

It’s a great plan, but when you've spent your entire career in government as a sycophantic Europhile, it’s probably best to be at least a little tactful about your political manoeuvres.

Where there was a glimpse of Ed as PM material last week, the only comparison being made today - when he missed an open goal - is simply: Kinnock. And we've seen that before.

Harry Cole is the UK Political Editor for The Commentator. He tweets at @MrHarryCole and is the News Editor of Guido Fawkes, Westminster's leading political website

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