PMQs review: Cameron is fading with the economy

It is becoming ever harder for the PM to defend Plan A.

Today's PMQs was not a good one for David Cameron. He held his own during his exchanges with Ed Miliband on Liam Fox but floundered on the economy. By the end, the man who spread the myth that Britain was on "the brink of bankruptcy", had resorted to accusing the Labour leader of "talking down the economy".

Yet the session did not begin unpromisingly for the Prime Minister. He batted away Miliband's questions on Fox, noting that the Defence Secretary had at least resigned over his behaviour, "not something that always happened in the last 13 years." It was precisely for this reason that Miliband struggled to land a blow on Cameron, only coming close when he noted that the PM had seen "his defence secretary resign in disgrace and his spin doctor arrested, is this what he meant by being different?" Cameron hit back: "If you're going to jump on a bandwagon, make sure that it's still moving."

In a tacit acknowledgment that the sting had gone from the story, Miliband devoted his remaining three questions to the economy. Here, he was on strong ground. Britain has one of the lowest rates of growth in Europe and one of the highest rates of inflation. Miliband repeated his favourite question: "does the Prime Minister still think his plan is working?" Refusing to give a direct answer, Cameron recited the stock explanations for high inflation "world food prices, world fuel prices, the depreciation of sterling". Miliband enjoys raising the subject of inflation because it gives him another chance to attack the coalition's VAT rise (which added 1.5 per cent to annual inflation), although it's worth noting that the UK would have above-average inflation even without this tax increase.

The Labour leader went on to repeat his new trick: identifying a government growth policy that is failing. Last week it was the National Insurance holiday, this week it was the Regional Growth Fund. The Treasury had issued 22 press releases on the fund but it had helped just two businesses. Yes, two. Across the floor, George Osborne looked as shocked and surprised as anyone. This is the second week in a row that Miliband has beaten Cameron on the economy (a subject he previously struggled on), a sign that it is becoming ever harder for the PM to defend Plan A.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The footie is back. Three weeks in and what have we learned so far?

Barcleys, boots and big names... the Prem is back.

Another season, another reason for making whoopee cushions and giving them to Spurs fans to cheer them up during the long winter afternoons ahead. What have we learned so far?

Big names are vital. Just ask the manager of the Man United shop. The arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger has done wonders for the sale of repro tops and they’ve run out of letters. Benedict Cumberbatch, please join Carlisle United. They’re desperate for some extra income.

Beards are still in. The whole Prem is bristling with them, the skinniest, weediest player convinced he’s Andrea Pirlo. Even my young friend and neighbour Ed Miliband has grown a beard, according to his holiday snaps. Sign him.

Boots Not always had my best specs on, but here and abroad I detect a new form of bootee creeping in – slightly higher on the ankle, not heavy-plated as in the old days but very light, probably made from the bums of newborn babies.

Barclays Still driving me mad. Now it’s screaming from the perimeter boards that it’s “Championing the true Spirit of the Game”. What the hell does that mean? Thank God this is its last season as proud sponsor of the Prem.

Pitches Some groundsmen have clearly been on the weeds. How else can you explain the Stoke pitch suddenly having concentric circles, while Southampton and Portsmouth have acquired tartan stripes? Go easy on the mowers, chaps. Footballers find it hard enough to pass in straight lines.

Strips Have you seen the Everton third kit top? Like a cheap market-stall T-shirt, but the colour, my dears, the colour is gorgeous – it’s Thames green. Yes, the very same we painted our front door back in the Seventies. The whole street copied, then le toot middle classes everywhere.

Scott Spedding Which international team do you think he plays for? I switched on the telly to find it was rugby, heard his name and thought, goodo, must be Scotland, come on, Scotland. Turned out to be the England-France game. Hmm, must be a member of that famous Cumbrian family, the Speddings from Mirehouse, where Tennyson imagined King Arthur’s Excalibur coming out the lake. Blow me, Scott Spedding turns out to be a Frenchman. Though he only acquired French citizenship last year, having been born and bred in South Africa. What’s in a name, eh?

Footballers are just so last season. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane can’t score. The really good ones won’t come here – all we get is the crocks, the elderly, the bench-warmers, yet still we look to them to be our saviour. Oh my God, let’s hope we sign Falcao, he’s a genius, will make all the difference, so prayed all the Man United fans. Hold on: Chelsea fans. I’ve forgotten now where he went. They seek him here, they seek him there, is he alive or on the stairs, who feckin’ cares?

John Stones of Everton – brilliant season so far, now he is a genius, the solution to all of Chelsea’s problems, the heir to John Terry, captain of England for decades. Once he gets out of short trousers and learns to tie his own laces . . .

Managers are the real interest. So refreshing to have three young British managers in the Prem – Alex Neil at Norwich (34), Eddie Howe at Bournemouth (37) and that old hand at Swansea, Garry Monk, (36). Young Master Howe looks like a ball boy. Or a tea boy.

Mourinho is, of course, the main attraction. He has given us the best start to any of his seasons on this planet. Can you ever take your eyes off him? That handsome hooded look, that sarcastic sneer, the imperious hand in the air – and in his hair – all those languages, he’s so clearly brilliant, and yet, like many clever people, often lacking in common sense. How could he come down so heavily on Eva Carneiro, his Chelsea doctor? Just because you’re losing? Yes, José has been the best fun so far – plus Chelsea’s poor start. God, please don’t let him fall out with Abramovich. José, we need you.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism