David Cameron clearly didn’t think he’d had a good PMQs by the time he’d finished with Ed Miliband. There was something irritable and tired about the Prime Minister as he took questions from backbenchers, and that weariness was compounded by the sight of Dennis Skinner limbering to his feet to deliver a long, angry and moving question about the work capability assessment. Dennis Skinner is the last thing you want floating to the top when your PMQs performance has been below par.
And it was below par. I understand that Cameron was given a very detailed briefing indeed today on energy prices because it was highly likely that Ed Miliband was going to come back for round two. As James says, the session is settling into a pattern. Part of that pattern seems to be Cameron mis-firing a little bit. He fixated on the idea that this was a ‘price con’ (and behind him, an even more exhausted-looking Nick Clegg repeated ‘con’ in an attempt to underline the point which just looked a bit eerie).
Cameron also tried to focus on Miliband as a weak leader, which would have had more traction had the Labour leader not managed to set the terms of debate for this autumn at his party conference. And Miliband had the best line of the session: ‘Doesn’t he feel faintly embarrassed that in five short years he’s gone from hug-a-husky to gas-a-badger?’
The truth is that the Conservatives have been spooked by Ed Miliband’s prize freeze pledge. They know it’s not good economics, but they also know that voters like these retail offers. It is becoming the new 50p tax rate in that the government politicians want to make the debate about whether the policy would actually work, while the opposition knows that the public is more taken with the symbolism of the plan: we’ll freeze your energy bills and hurt the annoying rich people more, while the nasty meany Tories only want to side with the energy companies and give millionaires a tax cut, and so on. Which means that the Tories do need to find that good retail offer that they’re currently scrabbling around for if they’re going to cut through at all.Tags: David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Energy prices, PMQs, UK politics