PMQs sketch: The final screech

Clegg nods off as Dave's last friend covers the whole decibel range.

When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote  that "into every life a little rain must fall,” he had not envisioned David Cameron or he would have changed the forecast.

After the worst night in his political life (so far) the Prime Minister returned to the House of Commons certain at last where to find his enemies: wherever he looked.

Bad enough to head for bed having been humiliated by his own side without being due a second slice of scorn at Prime Ministers Questions.

Indeed the House had a festive air about it as MPs on all sides celebrated their various parts in the drubbing of Dave, not to mention Nick (and nobody did) over the House of Lords.

Their mood was obviously helped by that wonderful parliamentary fact that wherever you are in the political calendar, another holiday is just around the corner; in this case a six week break starting next Tuesday.

Some seemed to have seized the chance to pack early and sadly amongst the missing was Hereford Tory MP Jesse Norman who played a large part in organizing 91 of his fellow travelers to desert Dave and described the Lords legislation as a “dead duck”.

MPs were hoping to check Jesse for signs of violence following reports of handbags incident involving him and the PM in the Commons late last night.

Mr Norman who, like Mr Cameron went to Eton and is old enough to have demanded Dave fetch his tea and crumpets, was apparently “escorted from the premises” following the conversation with his leader and is no longer tipped for promotion.

As Mr Norman weighs in among the “extra-large” size of MPs, observers were keen to see if Dave bore any marks of the conversation which his spokesman had denied could be characterized as an “argumentative exchange”.

Indeed there had been reports of the PM being spotted around the Commons at an ungodly hour this morning, no scars showing but with a face “like  a slapped ****,” to borrow a presentational technique seen this week at the John Terry trial.

But there were no extra signs of violence about Dave’s front as he took his place for PMQs although it was impossible to check his back for knife wounds inflicted the night before. 

As Dave sat waiting for his next humiliation his chief bodyguard and architect of the Government’s political strategy, Chancellor George, sat slumped forlornly in his seat. 

It would have been hard anyway to spot facial contusions since the PM had abandoned his usual practice of working himself up into a frenzy during the session by turning up already prepped.

In fact had he not been able to call witnesses to his whereabouts earlier his colour was such that you would have thought he had come straight from the tanning shop.

This then was the backdrop to the final appearance before the summer recess of not just hero-to-zero Dave but also zero-to-hero Ed Miliband.

Just eight short months ago you could have got better odds on Shergar winning the Derby than Ed winning the next election.

Indeed some of his own MPs would have been happy to splash their cash on Ed not even being their leader come 2015.

So the present PM must have thought he was living a nightmare as Mili uncoiled himself, to the cheers of those now happy to revise their opinions, to deliver an end of term report on his the last eight months.

Did Dave remember saying “I think I’d be good at it” when asked before the election if he wanted to be PM? asked the Labour leader. 

“Last night he lost control of his party and, not for the first time, his temper," said Ed as Dave’s regularly booked antagonist Ed Balls smiled so widely he almost swallowed his head.

The PM’s temper usually rises, like his colour, in direct mathematical proportion to his time on his feet. But having arrived in the Commons puced-up he was already in full Flashman when he got to his feet.

His own side - now apparently suddenly aware of the damage they had inflicted - tried manfully - and womanfully - to come to his support. So much so that MP Anne Marie Morris, sporting a suspicious sling around the arm that party whips are known to twist, spanned the whole decibel range to end in strangulated silence as she tried to show her leader that he still had one friend.

Meanwhile sitting silently by his side, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who described last night’s vote as “a huge triumph,” appeared to nod off.

 
Dave entered the Commons (unusually) pre-puced. Photo: Getty Images

Peter McHugh is the former Director of Programmes at GMTV and Chief Executive Officer of Quiddity Productions

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PMQs review: Theresa May shows how her confidence has grown

After her Brexit speech, the PM declared of Jeremy Corbyn: "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue". 

The woman derided as “Theresa Maybe” believes she has neutralised that charge. Following her Brexit speech, Theresa May cut a far more confident figure at today's PMQs. Jeremy Corbyn inevitably devoted all six of his questions to Europe but failed to land a definitive blow.

He began by denouncing May for “sidelining parliament” at the very moment the UK was supposedly reclaiming sovereignty (though he yesterday praised her for guaranteeing MPs would get a vote). “It’s not so much the Iron Lady as the irony lady,” he quipped. But May, who has sometimes faltered against Corbyn, had a ready retort. The Labour leader, she noted, had denounced the government for planning to leave the single market while simultaneously seeking “access” to it. Yet “access”, she went on, was precisely what Corbyn had demanded (seemingly having confused it with full membership). "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue,” she declared.

When Corbyn recalled May’s economic warnings during the referendum (“Does she now disagree with herself?”), the PM was able to reply: “I said if we voted to leave the EU the sky would not fall in and look at what has happened to our economic situation since we voted to leave the EU”.

Corbyn’s subsequent question on whether May would pay for single market access was less wounding than it might have been because she has consistently refused to rule out budget contributions (though yesterday emphasised that the days of “vast” payments were over).

When the Labour leader ended by rightly hailing the contribution immigrants made to public services (“The real pressure on public services comes from a government that slashed billions”), May took full opportunity of the chance to have the last word, launching a full-frontal attack on his leadership and a defence of hers. “There is indeed a difference - when I look at the issue of Brexit or any other issues like the NHS or social care, I consider the issue, I set out my plan and I stick to it. It's called leadership, he should try it some time.”

For May, life will soon get harder. Once Article 50 is triggered, it is the EU 27, not the UK, that will take back control (the withdrawal agreement must be approved by at least 72 per cent of member states). With MPs now guaranteed a vote on the final outcome, parliament will also reassert itself. But for now, May can reflect with satisfaction on her strengthened position.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.