Whoosh! Crasshh! Ploophm! Crummppp! The personal attacks came pounding in on David Cameron today. Ed Miliband asked about declining living standards and set about portraying the prime minister as an out-of-touch toff surrounded by plutocratic parasites. He cited the recent Tory Winter Ball where a signed mug-shot of Mr Cameron had been auctioned for the Warhol-esque sum of £100,000.

‘Then the prime minister declared, without a hint of irony, that the Tories are no longer the party of privilege.’

Cameron ignored the issue of living standards and told Miliband he’d raised the wrong topic.

‘If his question is – have you had to take difficult decisions to deal with the deficit, reform welfare and clean up the banks? Then yes, you bet.’

Interesting. The PM gets to choose the questions and the answers. It wouldn’t work in court. ‘Did you murder your wife?’ ‘No, I’ve never scrumped an apple.’

Cameron pulled the same trick when Stephen Pound asked if he stood to benefit personally from the millionaires’ tax-cut in April. The PM replied by acquitting himself of defrauding the Revenue.

‘I will pay all the taxes that are due in the proper way.’

Not a great answer. Could do with more disguised spin. Glasgow MP, Anas Sarwar, had written such a good gag that he forgot to attach it to political point. Referring to the Findus scare, he said, ‘Many of the prime minister’s answers, if tested, may contain 100 per cent bull.’

Cameron giggled. ‘Best to get a grip of the issue and not just make jokes.’

Up rose the towering figure of Tristram Hunt with his suspicious eyes and handsome, disdainful face. Because Hunt is blessed with an exceptionally generous physique, the milk of human kindness has never reached every part of his body. Certainly not his brain. He accused David Cameron of closing 350 libraries. This atrocity, he declared, had been compounded by the Communities Secretary calling the anti-cuts protestors ‘a bunch of luvvies.’ This should have been a great moment for Labour. But the image of Eric Pickles, that redoubtable and Falstaffian figure, mocking a phalanx of celebrity protestors with this cheerful insult is irresistibly attractive.

As Hunt resumed his seat, Cameron re-defined the issue as a fight between noble volunteers and rotten Labour boroughs. ‘The Big Society has an important role,’ he said, ‘in keeping libraries open, sometimes in the teeth of opposition from Labour councils.’

Penny Mordaunt barely got her question out before the house erupted in catcalls. ‘Does the Prime Minister take a dim view of those who say one thing and do another… ?’

A clear a reference to the disqualified boy-racer, Chris Huhne, and the upcoming tussle for his vacant seat. Usually a mid-term by-election amounts to no more than a ritual execution. A little slice of Dignitas comes to a corner of the realm, and some hapless member of the governing party is done away with in a quiet and civilised ceremony. Not this time. Mr Cameron is so confident of victory that he launched his campaign on the floor of the house. He spoiled things a little by likening the Tory hopeful, Maria Hutchings, to a can of varnish. He also called her ‘it.’

‘Let the voters of Eastleigh choose a straight-talking candidate who does exactly what it says on the tin.’

He then stirred his troops on the eve of battle. ‘I hope all my honourable friends will be joining me on the campaign trail.’

The Tories whooped with glee. A good outing for Cameron toady. At least he thought so. Infallible clue: he mentioned the Big Society four or five times which always indicates self-confidence. He can’t wait for the can of varnish to seal it for the Tories.

Tags: Big Society, By-election, Chris Huhne, Cost of living, David Cameron, Eastleigh, Ed Miliband, PMQs, UK politics