Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Miliband attacks PM for ‘intellectual collapse’ at tepid PMQs

Commentators sometimes like to describe a particular session of Prime Minister’s Questions as ‘vintage’. If ‘vintage’ is the correct description for the good weeks, this one was more of a serving of tepid Blue Nun.

David Cameron was in a very odd mood indeed. He was clearly pleased with an early quip referencing Miliband’s Desert Island Discs appearance. He joked that Miliband ‘isn’t loving Marx, he’s loving Engels instead’. The joke was so dreadful that the entire Chamber convulsed as though winded by a fast-moving cricket ball.

Miliband attacked the Prime Minister on his inconsistency over payday loan caps and climate change policy. This was a good theme, and gave the Labour leader the killer line that what had happened this week was ‘an intellectual collapse of their position’. But Cameron’s response was very poor indeed. He told the Commons that ‘I feel like one of those radio hosts saying “and your complaint is?”‘ and then went on to tell Miliband that ‘he should be standing up and congratulate us’.

But though Miliband had the right message, on the Conservative party saying one thing and then doing another, he didn’t really execute it as well as he should have done. He meandered between a number of topics, beating Cameron to the title of shoehorner in chief of tendentious topics. He started with payday loans, energy markets, winter deaths and climate change policy. These are all linked, but Miliband managed to make them sound disparate.

There was another interesting moment later in the session. Perhaps the PM was still a bit distracted by his Engels joke, but he omitted to express his regret that Laura Sandys, one of the key modernisers who the Times reported confronted him over green policy last week, is standing down in 2015.

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