David Cameron calls Ed Miliband a 'waste of space' in last PMQs before Christmas

The leaders' debate descended into personal attacks and bad jokes

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There was a distinct lack of festive goodwill in the House of Commons at the last Prime Minister’s Questions before Christmas, as David Cameron called Ed Miliband a “waste of space”.

The Labour leader had accused the Prime Minister of “giving up on compassionate conservatism” and exposing the Tories for “who they really are”.

Both politicians appeared to abandon policy entirely and opt for personal attacks in a vicious exchange.

Mr Cameron said he “almost” felt sorry for Labour MPs before attempting a joke about a “silent night” for the opposition.

“I have to say I almost feel sorry for Labour MPs - they can't talk about the deficit because it has fallen,” he said.

"They can't talk about growth because it is rising, they can't talk about jobs because we are increasing them, they can't talk about immigration because they have been told not to talk about immigration.

“They can't talk about their leader because he is a complete waste of space. No wonder for Labour MPs this year it's a silent night.”

Mr Miliband had asked him to reflect on a less than successful year for the Conservatives.

“You have lost two MPs to Ukip, you lost 26 too in Europe and you brought a whole new meaning to the phrase conviction politician when Andy Coulson went to jail,” he said.

“The truth is you have given up on compassionate conservatism. They have been exposed for who they really are.

“Your plan for the 2020s is to go back to the 1930s. It isn't about balancing the books, it is about slashing the state and in just four months' time that is the election choice.”

The audience for the slanging match was smaller than usual, with noticeable gaps in the green benches usually packed for PMQs as the Christmas holidays approach.

After the leaders sought to land more blows on each other’s economic credibility, normal service resumed with policy questions from backbenchers.

Tory defector Douglas Carswell asked his first question as a Ukip MP but showed old habits die hard by referring to the Prime Minister as “my honourable friend”, an address reserved for members of the same party.

Additional reporting by PA