Taking a break . . .

The Staggers downs tools for the holidays

We'll be back on 29 December with more news, views, analysis and related trivia.

In the meantime, here are five posts worth revisiting:

1. Who wants a Tory babygro for Christmas? Look at the brilliant gifts you could have had.

2. Boris gets off the bus. If you're a Londoner, steel yourself for fare hikes next year.

3. US health-care reform by numbers. The historic health-care bill scraped through the Senate on Christmas Eve. If you fancy boning up on the facts behind the figures, look no further.

4. Time to see past the Steve Jobs delusion. Got anything from Apple under your tree? A controversial post on the evangelical dedication of Apple customers.

5. Claws out: five top "PM under attack" quotes. Perhaps not quite in the spirit of festive cheer and all that, but hey, it's a dog-eat-dog world out there.

And, of course, the pictorial wonder that is our Top 10 Politicians' Christmas cards.

 

Merry Christmas from the Staggers team!

 

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PMQs: David Cameron finds his way past Jeremy Corbyn's 4-5-1

The Prime Minister has finally got to grips with Jeremy Corbyn's new approach. 

Jeremy Corbyn’s best performances come when he speaks with the voices of others. Going for the traditional attacking and braying of PMQs leaves him badly exposed, allowing David Cameron to attack him on 30+ years of articles for the Morning Star, appearances on Russia Today, and any number of unsupportive remarks from Labour politicians, both retired and currently in Parliament.

“If JC attempts any kind of cut and thrust *at all* he will get shredded by DC for his own various positions,” reflected one of the team tasked with briefing the Labour leader before PMQs. Corbyn’s new approach to PMQs – of bringing public questions – have a double bonus: they are a living embodiment of the “new politics” that the Islington North MP promises and they make it much harder for Cameron to reply by attacking Corbyn’s record.

It’s a defensive tactic, but the occasional win in the old style is more than wiped out by the damage to Labour and Corbyn by allowing Cameron to play “Red Scare” in the House.

It’s no coincidence that Corbyn’s better PMQs have come when he uses the new-style and his worst when he attempts the old. Until today, the Prime Minister has seemed flummoxed by how to respond to the Labour leader’s use of real people at the despatch box.

But today he finally managed one, skilfully re-appropriating “Rosie”, a young Londoner who is being hit by the capital’s skyrocketing property and rents, in order to praise the government’s record – such as it is – on housebuilding. If you look at the small print, Cameron’s answers left much to be desired: he talked about people like Rosie working to pay the housing benefit of others, a benefit that largely goes to people in work. He praised a fairly indifferent record of housebuilding – that falls far short of where Britain’s housing stock needs to be even to stand still.

However, the Labour leader was incapable of pinning him down. With the old approach to PMQs a non-starter against Cameron, and the Prime Minister finally finding a way to live with the new style, a third way may have be found. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog. He usually writes about politics.