PMQs: Miliband mimicry mockery

There were glimpses of Flashman Dave on show at today's PMQs, but the PM's victory was mainly down to Miliband's routine self-destruction

Welcome back, Ed
Alex Wickham, UK Politics Editor
On 21 November 2012 13:49

A few Honourable Members perhaps enjoyed their time off a little too much if today’s Prime Minister’s Questions was anything to go by. The first PMQs for three weeks was a subdued affair, by the less-than-crashing finale it had reached the stage where Westminster watchers were beginning to miss the absent Ed Balls. A sentence I never thought I would write.

Mr. Miliband opted to split his questions, rather oddly choosing a lecturing approach to the Israel-Gaza crisis. You never know, maybe Ed is the man with the gravitas to solve this age-old conflict once and for all.

Our two not-quite-sparring-partners adopted the ultra-moderate middle ground position, carefully agreeing that “Hamas should stop firing rockets into Israel, and Israel should hold off a ground invasion”.

Cameron then took some flak from his backbench colleagues for failing to immediately express condolences and condemnation over today’s Tel Aviv terrorist attack. The one point of disagreement across the despatch box was over the rather ill-timed Palestinian bid for enhanced status at the UN. At least Dave got that one right.

Elsewhere Nick Clegg looked like a guilty, even slightly smug, schoolboy when the impeccably-attired Tristram Hunt brought up the abysmal turnout for last week’s Police and Crime Commissioner Elections. Clegg’s gleeful scuppering of the original May date did not go unnoticed on the Tory benches.

The bespectacled Michael Gove stirred from his slumber only to joke with an unnamed colleague sitting behind him about Dave’s pledge to be the greenest government in history. John Hayes was presumably still at lunch.

Then came round two with Ed looking to catch the PM out with a question about NHS cataract services. Until this moment Andrew Lansley had a face like he was facing charges for something, but the self-styled Glummest Man in Parliament perked up when Dave leaned over to his former Health Secretary for advice. Miliband seized his chance: “the Prime Minister shouldn’t be asking him, he got rid of him!”

Just when it looked like Ed might nick a win, the Labour leader inexplicably decided to ram a proverbial shotgun under his own chin. The collective bubble hackery had wondered if the PM’s morning prep would be ruined by George Osborne’s appearance at the banking commission and, although Dave did look over to the empty space vacated by the Chancellor at one point, his response to Ed’s suicidal Corby jibe was damning.

Reminding the opposition of John Prescott’s fate-baiting claim that his PCC battle would be “a referendum on everything this government has done”, Dave landed a punch in clinical fashion: “he says last Thursday the people of Corby spoke for the country, last Thursday the people of Humberside spoke for the whole nation!”.

Not quite a knockout punch Prezza would have been proud of, but a match-winning blow nonetheless.

“More, more!”, cried the Tories. Now Dave was in full Flashman mode, berating Ed for “telling conference he wanted to be Disraeli, telling Radio 4 he was like Thatcher, the House he was more eurosceptic than Bill Cash, and then that he was more pro-Europe than Tony Blair. He’s impersonated more politicians than Rory Bremner, well today the joke is on him”.

And then he went and spoiled the party by unforgivably praising arch-lefty Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Oh well, at least he had probably turned the Leader of the Opposition to religion in the process.

Alex Wickham is a reporter at the Guido Fawkes website. He tweets at @Wickham_A

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