Having given up on Miliband, the PM slaps himself in the face with his own policies.
By Ian Dunt Follow @IanDunt
David Cameron has assumed the role of leader of the opposition in addition to his duties as prime minister. PMQs now consists of him slapping himself in the face with his own baffling policies and then quickly gathering his wits to defend them. It's like a one-man theatre performance in the Benny Hill tradition, and by that I mean: unseemly, unfunny and harking back to a dark period of British history.
Some people are already chalking this up as an Ed Miliband win, itself a grotesque perversion of the concept of 'win'. In reality, Ed mumbled some lines about economic growth and the NHS bill and then Dave stood up and beat himself to death with them.
When Labour left office growth was around two per cent. Today it is contracting at a rate of 0.2%. Ed's attempt to highlight this small fact came down to a set of pre-scripted questions, which Dave rightly pointed out bore no relation to his answers. He didn't even manage to concisely link the downturn to the austerity programme for the nightly news bulletins. The prime minister became so irritated he began to construct some of the least convincing arguments of his parliamentary career, in an effort, one can only presume, to even the odds.
First, he demanded praise for the fact the economy grew last year, when it hovered around 0.5%. Then he justified the looming recession with the fact Labour had once proclaimed the end of boom and bust. Finally he insisted that even though nurse, doctors and patients oppose his NHS reforms, Ed was "out of touch with what's happening in Doncaster".
It was a pitiful performance by the PM, defending a series of policies which will eventually ruin him. Worse than that, his PMQs tactics are now very easy to spot. Every sympathetic answer starts with "the honourable gentleman raises an important point". Every critical one starts with "what the honourable gentleman doesn't realise…" followed by an old policy measure which doesn't address the question. He is becoming increasingly prone to reeling off lists of statistics, as Gordon Brown once did. The ways in which he can be dismantled are becoming equally clear, even though Ed has failed to grasp them.
Behind Dave, the Tory benches were silent and glum. It was not fear of Ed's rabid political powers that did it. It was the plain realisation that they were firmly in the process of cocking up government.
Next to him sat George Osborne, like a patient being forced to eat ghastly medicine. His usual sneering veneer and a violent smile were replaced by a death-white complexion, a weak exterior and horrible, childlike eyes. He looked lifeless and diminished, his whole raison d'etre crumbling around his sweaty fingers. He sat there, waiting for a kicking, and it never came. Perhaps next week the prime minister can give the chancellor some attention while he spanks his own bottom.