The real clash at PMQs today was between Ed Balls’ heckling and David Cameron’s temper. Balls was in a particularly chirpy mood. He started off his impression of an Australian slip
fielder as soon as the Prime Minister arrived at the despatch box. The flat lining gesture made an early appearance, along with his signals telling Cameron to calm down.
But the moment when Balls seemed to really get under Cameron’s skin was when he pointed at the overwhelmingly male Treasury bench as Cameron talked about the importance of getting more women
on boards. Two questions later, Cameron responded to a Balls’ heckle by saying that ‘the shadow Chancellor is wrong, even when he’s sitting down.’
This rebuke only spurred Balls on to even greater efforts. Cameron finished his praise of free schools by saying that ‘When a future shadow Chancellor attends one of these schools,
he’ll learn some manners.’ This, obviously, led to Balls raising the volume.
The final question of the session came from Sir Peter Tapsell, who has been appointed to the Privy Council on Cameron’s recommendation, who praised coalition economic policy and derided
Balls’ ‘increasingly maniacal gesture’. At this point, the volume in the Chamber rose and Balls started making all of his gestures at once. Cameron, just about keeping a lid on his
temper, attacked Balls’ ‘questionable salutes.’
But I’ll bet you, Balls will be back next week — louder than ever before. Boorish it may be, but he’s determined to make the PM lose his rag and will know just how close he came
to doing that today.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.