The House of Commons returned today with the first Prime Minister's Questions since the party conference season. And, as expected, it was a corker. Sometimes the Punch and Judy show remains great entertainment - and provides a telling snapshot of the respective health of the major combatants. This was one of those occasions.
The first Tory to ask a question drew attention to his local council's excellent recycling record and asked the Prime Minister if he fancied visiting "some of our bottle banks". Ha! Then it was David Cameron's turn: could he capitalise on the Prime Minister's embarrassment over the election-that-never-was and his pilfering of Tory proposals on inheritance tax? It turns out he could. Cameron pummelled Gordon Brown mercilessly. Brown didn't like it one bit and his protestation that he would take "no lectures" from the opposition leader looked petulant and weak.
Among Camerons' jabs:
"You are the first prime minister in history to flunk an election because you thought you could win it."
"Do you realise what a phoney you now look? Have you found a single person who believes your excuses for cancelling the election?"
[The Prime Minister] should "find a bit of courage, get a bit of bottle, get into his car, go down to Buckingham Palace and call that election".
"For 10 years you have plotted and schemed to have this job, and for what? No conviction, just calculation. No vision, just a vacuum.
"How long are we going to have to wait before the past makes way for the future?"
You can watch the whole performance here [Video and Audio News: Prime Minister's Questions for the full half hour]. You can tell how bad it was for Brown by the glum faces on the Labour benches. Cameron's challenge is to keep the pressure on through the winter, hitting Labour again and again. Brown's reputation has taken a serious dent, but it's still roadworthy.
PS: I noticed that, unusually, Alex Salmond was present (he remains MP for Banff and Buchan in addition to his duties as First Minister) but, depsite wanting to be, was not called. A deliberate snub from the Speaker, Michael Martin? Quite possibly given that Mr Martin is a Glasgow Labour MP and no friend to the SNP.