PMQs sketch: An irrelevant sideshow
Ed may have had a blustering Dave on the ropes, but he couldn't land the K.O.
There have been days when the House of Commons could claim to be the centre of world events.Today was not one of them.
As Occupy London stole the domestic political agenda on the steps of St Paul's and the Greek PM hijacked the rest of Europe with an outrageous threat to involve his own people in their destiny, the best Dave could do was to apologise in advance for the "most unpleasant-looking thing I have to do every week".This was not, as you might imagine, slipping his hand up the back of his Deputy's jacket to ensure continuation of the coalition, but turning up for Prime Ministers Questions.
This revelation came by way of Grazia magazine, where he is starting his campaign to win back the women voters who have gone on the run since they worked out that his promise, "we are all in this together", didn't apply to them. PMQs pushes you into coming across as a "macho, aggressive male," he said before adding,"that's not the real you" --- which is a bit of a shame since that's the one who turned up.
To be fair to Dave it's not just women he has fallen out with. Many on his own side have failed to fall for the charm. Tory MPs have a unique way of demonstrating their disloyalty by upping the volume of their support in direct proportion. So after mugging him on Europe last week they went Richter-plus on the noise-ometer as he went about his "unpleasant thing".
Each week now Ed Miliband turns up at the Despatch Box knowing in advance he has the Prime Minister on the ropes. Sadly, his North London comp has not given him the lessons in bullying and roasting which Eton College gave to Dave and so sometimes having got him on the ropes, Ed lets him go. He has been concentrating more on his technique but he never looks comfortable with the killer punch, and so it was today.
Of course it did not help that Ed had decided that though Europe might be on everyone else's lips, it was not going to be on his. Dave was equally happy to avoid the subject of his regular nightmares and neither leader wanted any further discussion about referendums and asking the voters etc, whether in Greece or anywhere else.
Ed obviously reckoned he had enough to skewer Dave on the home front. Did the PM think a growth rate of 0.5 per cent a success or failure? What was he going to do about boardroom pay rises? Why was none of this anything to do with him? Why was he so out of touch?
Dave was so wrong-footed he even said the Archbishop of Canterbury was speaking for the country when he condemned boardroom excesses -- although he recovered enough to baulk at the Archbishop's call for a Tobin tax.
By now Labour was in full throat as Ed Balls, totally at home on the bullying front, egged his leader on to shriller tones. Even Ken Clarke, used to treating PMQs as his pre-lunch nap, stared about him with some confusion at the noise before Speaker Bercow intervened to appeal for calm. "Its only six minutes past," he said in that withering British style that might be slightly lost on MPs in other countries.
As some of the more corpulent MPs fought for breath, former Chancellor Alistair Darling tried to put an end to the irrelevance of the proceedings by saying more detail was needed on the eurozone bail-out plan. He even mentioned Greece.
There had been agreement last week, said Dave; without mentioning his Greek equivalents decision to ask his people if they had a view on being screwed. Sixty seconds later he was on the much safer ground of keeping foreign workers out of the country. A lot of them could be Greeks.
Peter McHugh is the former Director of Programmes at GMTV and Chief Executive Officer of Quiddity Productions.