No knockout, but the Ed corner celebrates a PMQs points victory

His brother chose to stay away, but Miliband surprised Cameron and reassured his own party in his first big test

Labour MPs greeted Ed Miliband respectfully when he entered the bear pit of the Commons yesterday. Thirty-five minutes later, they cheered him to the rafters as he left the chamber after a successful debut at Prime Minister's Question Time.

"I'm glad that's over," the Labour leader confided to one MP, despite his remarkably calm exterior and relaxed, smiling demeanour during the session. Yesterday was an important test for Mr Miliband: early impressions count in politics, and many commentators are itching to brand him a flop.

Before winning over the public, Mr Miliband had another hurdle to clear – he needed to win the confidence of his own MPs, because more of them voted for his elder brother David than for him in Labour's leadership election. That made yesterday's baptism of fire even more testing.

David decided to stay away from the chamber, telling Ed this in advance. He did not want every facial expression recorded by the sketchwriters or cameras, in case they were misconstrued.

In his absence, his brother did well. There was no knockout blow, but nobody disputed that he won a points victory over David Cameron, who has looked a natural at PMQs since becoming Prime Minister.

Afterwards, Labour spin doctors were even congratulated on his debut by their Tory counterparts. More importantly, Miliband aides received several text messages praising his performance from Labour MPs who had wanted his brother to be leader.

Yesterday, the relief on the Labour benches was palpable as the fear that the party may have chosen "the wrong guy" started to lift.

The new Labour leader had a two-hour "prepping" session yesterday morning when he arrived at his Westminster office overlooking the Thames and opposite the London Eye – previous occupant, a Mr D. Cameron. He was fired up by what one ally described as "too many cappuccinos".

As well as the team put together by his aide Polly Billington, others popped in to give him their advice. Harriet Harman passed on some tips from her spell as acting Labour leader, while her adviser Ayesha Hazarika – a stand-up comedienne – offered some one-liners.

Mr Miliband's guiding star is constructive rather than knee-jerk opposition, so he decided to try to show that the Coalition does not have a monopoly on the "new politics". He adopted a deliberately sombre approach on the death of aid worker Linda Norgrove and British troops in Afghanistan, before offering to work together with the Government on welfare reform as well as Afghanistan. Mr Cameron, accustomed to the role of Mr Reasonable himself, appeared wrong-footed.

The Leader of the Opposition is allowed six questions, and Team Miliband plotted a change of gear from consensus to attack mode. But on which issue? The most topical was the proposed rise in university tuition fees. But Mr Miliband knew that Mr Cameron would come armed with a list of quotes exposing Labour's divisions on the issue.

Searching for Mr Cameron's weak point, the Labour leader decided to go hard on the decision to withdraw child benefit from higher rate taxpayers. He described last week's announcement as a "shambles" and, reflecting the political zeitgeist, not "fair".

Mr Miliband wanted to know how many stay-at-home mothers would lose out. When Mr Cameron didn't offer an answer, the Labour leader played a prepared card: "I may be new to this game, but I thought I asked the questions and you answered them."

Awarding the Prime Minister "nought out of two on straight answers", he said: "We should try to change the tone of these exchanges, but he must provide straight answers to straight questions." Later he deployed the best joke of the session, saying the child benefit announcement at the Conservative Party conference had been such a mess that Mr Cameron must have wished that the aborted BBC strike had gone ahead.

The Prime Minister's pre-cooked lines were less effective. Welcoming Mr Miliband to his new perch, he hoped that he would stay there for "many years to come". But it wasn't a new gag. George Osborne, the Chancellor, had used it against Mr Johnson the previous day.

Jubilant Labour MPs toasted their new leader in the Commons bars last night. But old heads knew not to get too carried away. "One session down, only four and a half years until the election," one quipped. They also knew that Mr Cameron would not underestimate his new opponent again.

Ed Miliband's PMQs team

Polly Billington

Former BBC political correspondent, was Miliband's special adviser when he was Climate Change Secretary. Co-ordinated the "prepping" operation for PMQs. Not afraid to speak her mind.

Greg Beales

Miliband's head of policy. Took lead in writing of his Labour conference speech. Former management consultant and No 10 adviser on health and welfare.

Steve Van Riel

Labour Party's director of policy. Played role of David Cameron in yesterday's preparations – and guessed some of his lines perfectly.

Bruce Grocott

Labour peer and former MP. Veteran of PMQs preparations as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Tony Blair for seven years. Also a former TV producer.

Chuka Umunna

Rising Labour star, 32-year-old lawyer who became MP for Streatham in May. Fast- track appointment as Miliband's PPS last weekend.

Anne McGuire

Miliband's other PPS. MP for Stirling since 1997 and former Work and Pensions Minister. Backed David Miliband in the Labour leadership election.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Sport
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballArsenal vs QPR match report
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
i100
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all