Blimey. That was a weird one. PMQs was trundling merrily away when the house was suddenly engulfed in a whirlwind of insults and accusations. Even now the row rumbles on across the blogosphere. Cameron arrived at PMQs looking genial and well-sunned. Quite a contrast with his sallow-faced opponent. Perhaps Ed Miliband’s bookish ways have kept him in the reading-room during the heat-wave while Cameron was roaming his herbaceous borders uprooting dandelions and other troublesome yellow-heads.
The session began with the usual blend of opportunism and hypocrisy. Miliband demanded to know why economic growth has flat-lined in the last six months. Cameron lighted on a more favourable set of figures – the last quarter’s upsurge – and invited the Labour leader to rejoice in the recent growth spurt. He accused Miliband of ‘talking the economy down’ and Miliband duly countered by blaming Cameron’s ‘austerity rhetoric’ for destroying consumer confidence.
Turning to the NHS, Miliband adopted the mild-assassin mode that has often served him well. Why, he asked quietly, have 98.7 per cent of nurses registered their lack of confidence in the government’s reforms. Cameron faltered here. ‘When you make changes in public services,’ he improvised, ‘it is a challenge to take people with you.’ Labour members laughed their heads off. Miliband: ‘Dearie me, that wasn’t a very good answer was it?’ More gleeful laughter. Miliband has never patronised the PM quite so blatantly as this. It’s the tone of the governess scolding a promising pupil who has started to slack. And it’s effective too, up to a point. It gives political point-scoring a certain immediacy and emotional weight. But it seems a bit girly as well. A bit infantile.