PMQs was not the normal, partisan slug-fest today. Instead, there were a slew of serious questions on the challenge of Islamic extremism at home and abroad and the migrant crisis.
George Osborne, standing in for David Cameron, turned in a solid performance. He seemed unfazed by the occasion. His only misstep was persisting with a pre-scripted joke in response to Hilary Benn’s sombre opening question. But other than that, Osborne’s answers were crisp and politically confident.
The themes he chose to emphasise were very Osborne. In response to a Labour question on welfare, he had a British version of Angela Merkel’s warning about how Europe can’t afford not to reform its welfare state. He said that Britain had 1% of the world’s population, 4% of its GDP but 7% of its welfare spending. He was also quick to talk about the importance of infrastructure and science spending at every opportunity. Osborne chastised Labour for failing to ask about jobs, following today’s good unemployment numbers.
But what, perhaps, today told us most about is the slick nature of the Osborne parliamentary operation. When he rose, he was met with a loud cheer from the Tory benches and there seemed to be even more planted questions from government backbenchers than usual.