Those of us who have long argued that Ed Miliband has a steely side and shouldn’t be underestimated or written off are feeling rather pleased with ourselves this afternoon.
Miliband chewed up and spat out David Cameron in one of his finest performances at the despatch box so far, leaving the Prime Minister in full “Flashman” mode: testy, irritated, veins near bulging point, getting pinker and pinker with each irate and defensive answer.
The session was a game of two halves: the first had Miliband quiet, serious, speaking on behalf of the public, asking for a public inquiry into hacking — and getting one! — and expressing disgust with the latest phone-hacking allegations. The second half saw him go after Cameron personally, calling on the Prime Minister to join him in demanding the resignation of the News International boss, Rebekah Brooks — a close personal friend and regular dining parter of Cameron — denouncing the PM’s decision to employ the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his director of communications (a post from which Coulson resigned only in January) and urging the coalition government to refer Rupert Murdoch’s bid to buy all of BSkyB to the Competition Commission.
Ahead of PMQs, the BBC’s deputy political editor, James Landale, observed:
Ed Miliband has two options in terms of tactics on hacking. He can choose to be political, attacking David Cameron over his judgement in employing Andy Coulson, or he can position himself as the voice of the people, focusing on the public revulsion at some of the most recent revelations.
The Labour leader threw out the rule book and decided to do both. It worked. Cameron spent much of the exchange on the defensive, unable to offer convincing answers or rebuttals and falling back on the tired and now discredited response of: “Let the police do their work.” The verdict of the political Twitterati was in before he’d sat down after his last question: Ed Miliband 1, David Cameron 0.
Here’s the Sky News political editor, Adam Boulton:
PMQs: EM wipes the floor with DC on #phonehacking #NotW #Skymerger. DC backs inquiries but ducks on Rebekah, Coulson and merger referral
Here’s his Sky News colleague Jon Craig:
Ed Miliband’s best PMQs yet? The view of a few of us in the Press Gallery. Well argued, calm, reasoned. Had Cameron on defensive & rattled.
Here’s the ITV News political editor, Tom Bradby:
He was stronger, more confident, more authoritative and more convincing than he has ever been. He may just have saved his leadership.
And then there’s Charlie Brooker, who asked:
Who knew Miliband had a “Hulk” mode?
A simple answer: James Macintyre and I did.