James Forsyth James Forsyth

Devil in the detail

David Cameron is not a details man. He has always been more comfortable with the grand sweep than the nitty-gritty of policy. Ed Miliband, by contrast, is a natural-born policy wonk who is never more confident than when discussing detail.  

Miliband is trying to turn this to his advantage at PMQs and, for the second week in a row, succeeded in catching Cameron out on the details of government policy in an emotive area. Last week it was benefits for cancer sufferers, this week it was the retention of DNA from those arrested for, but not charged with, rape.   

The Prime Minister is a good enough performer at the despatch box to get through these moments without sustaining too much damage. But the danger for him is that interviewers start taking their lead from Miliband; that his media appearances become punctuated by very specific questions about his government’s stance on some micro-question to which Cameron doesn’t know the answer. At which point, the idea that Cameron was not totally on top of his brief would start to gain popular currency.  

But, perhaps, the most noticeable element of today’s PMQs was Becow’s handling of it. He cut one Tory backbencher off mid-stream and denied Cameron even the chance to respond. This led to Cameron gesticulating angrily at the chair and saying something. I’m sure some enterprising lip-reader will soon tell us what the Prime Minister was telling the Speaker. 

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