David Cameron saw off Ed Milband at Prime Ministers Questions–and its been written down so it must be true.
It may not have been much of a win but any victory counts after months of being on the end of Ed’s boot at the weekly scrap for superiority. There were no indications of the tumultuous times ahead as PMQs limped rather than swung into action after the latest week off in the parliamentary calendar.
With October’s borrowing figures out today showing the economy still way off course and negotiations opening tomorrow on the EU budget there was clearly much to get a good row going. And so Ed asked instead about Gaza and both he and Dave politely agreed something must be done.
Having spent most of the morning preparing his answers on the economy and the EU budget Dave was miffed but at least relieved to have got through his first bit of Ed without being bitten.
By now the air of indifference had spread through the Chamber and MPs turned to their mobile phones for solace led by Education Secretary Michael Gove who clearly had better places to be.
Noticeable by his absence was Chancellor George Osborne traditionally chief outrider and bodyguard for Dave at these normally intemperate occasions. (It emerged later that George had been appearing before the Commission he had set up into the banks to persuade them not to do anything silly like interfering with the banks.)
In his place was Foreign Secretary William Hague who did come in useful during the Gaza chat by quickly whispering the Government’s position into Dave’s left ear. The PM’s right ear meanwhile remained resolutely untouched by the somnolent figure next to it in the shape of his Deputy. It was only when Ed rose for his second bite at the cherry which has so sweetly tasted of Chateau Dave in the recent past that incoming emails were set to one side.
The Labour leader chose the NHS to ease himself into the attack before complementing the PM on managing to get the word “omnishambles” into the Oxford English Dictionary. (Ed was being coy since every one knew he had used it first in a previous PMQs battering.) He then moved in for the kill with a reference to Labour’s victory in the Corby by-election “speaking for the country”.
With a reference to Corby being as certain as Roman Abramovitch’s sacking of Roberto Di Matteo, Dave and his advisors had the reply ready. Never mind Corby, what about Humberside? said the PM where the voters saw off former Deputy Prime Minister and noted bruiser John Prescott “and spoke for the nation.” Even the present Deputy PM laughed at that one.
As Tory MPs cheered for more at the realisation that there may well be life after death Ed subsided back into his seat. Dave was so enamoured by his success that he even ventured into the normally off limits territory of the established church to back women bishops and call on the CofE to “get with the programme” -a phrase clearly much used at the General Synod.
Then he went to lunch and for once, he wasn’t on the menu.