Wednesday, January 19, 2011

PMQs

Today I broke the habit of a lifetime and tuned into Prime Ministers' Questions. As usual, Cameron handled it well, and is certainly a smooth and convincing performer. Ed Miliband remains a little hesitant, although he's attempting to make up for it with an aggressive approach to challenging government policy.

Only political anoraks pay any attention to PMQs, so it probably has barely any effect beyond Westminster. However, a couple of points with wider implications that struck me today.

First, Cameron currently enjoys the luxury of being able to bat back any criticism with the easy line 'we have to do this to sort out the mess left behind by the party opposite'. This line has a sell-by date which is fast approaching, so he's going to have to dream up something new, especially by the time of the next election.

Second, Cameron's smoothness could well prove a problem. Unlike Tony Blair, who came across as simply dishonest once reality began to clash with his convincing rhetoric, Cameron faces another threat: he's posh, so sounding too convincing makes him appear 'born to rule'. Of course, some voters might like that, but in hard times with bankers partying at everyone else's expense, this is probably not an attitude Cameron wants to be adopting. The trouble is, with his background it's probably impossible to sound down to earth or to empathize with the masses.

So, the message for Ed is: keep plugging away. The time could come when Cameron's mastery of PMQs  becomes a millstone, and voters might appreciate a tenacious voice of opposition prepared to challenge him with some unpalatable facts from the real world.