I know I’m biased. I’ve supported Ed Miliband since well before the leadership contest and made a tidy sum betting on him to be the next leader. So I guess I’m bound to favour Ed when writing about Parliamentary politics. But today I was genuinely impressed with his performance during Prime Minister’s Questions.
It is always important for a new leader to put in a good performance during their first PMQs. And it was even more important for Ed Miliband as he works to win over all the people who voted for his brother or other candidates. To win over the doubting Thomas and Thomasinas, Miliband needed a strong performance in the Chamber. And he gave one.
He seems to have made two conscious moves that helped him today. The first was in his tone. Gordon Brown at the despatch box was an angry, aggressive performer. He opened himself up to attack from the media and opposition while making it harder to make his own point and all the while making Cameron look like the most reasonable man in the world. Today, Miliband chose to deliver his questions in a quiet, calm and patient manner which was completely the opposite to Brown and, in turn, had the opposite effect on Cameron. Dave looked shouty, shrill, loud and rattled at points.
The second move was his choice of questions. I have a feeling Cameron was expecting to be quizzed on the Browne report. By narrowing the focus of his questions down to the issue of child benefit and asking some specific questions, Miliband made Cameron appear unfocused, lacking in answers, and floundering in the Chamber. Miliband also used a statistic and quote to which Cameron’s only comeback was to use a quote from Alan Milburn.
Now, before we go wild with adulation for our new leader, we should remember that it won’t always be as easy for him. Let’s face it, Osborne’s child benefit wheeze has more holes in it than the Sunderland defence. But he made a good start and put Cameron on the back foot.
The coming weeks will be interesting as Cameron ups his game and Ed gets into his stride.