The Sketch: High-pitched Cameron flustered by Labour's farmyard noises

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The Independent Online

Yesterday I worried the Sketch was a bit lofty about the House of Commons' economic debate. The Labour front bench was arguing in sign language, the signs were rude, and the Sketch shuddered, perhaps a little delicately. The signs got ruder yesterday, if Tory reports are true.

When Cameron mentioned the modest growth figure of 0.5 per cent the following all happened at once. Labour jeered in its mixed farmyard way; Ed Balls did his small, lateral hand movement again and again to indicate flat-lining; Ed Miliband made one big complex gesture with his runaway face, and Angela Eagle recently shadow Chief Secretary in the Treasury wagged her little finger at the Prime Minister.

Why? Perhaps one has to be a paranoid man to understand but many of us feel it to be a representation of our inadequate virility. The Prime Minister mentions the growth figure and Gordon Brown's Exchequer Secretary, as she used to be, makes a sign to suggest he is comically inadequate to satisfy a woman.

We may be on the brink of a monetary event. Is it too lofty to want a debate above the level of a sports bar? At least above the belt?

Alistair Darling was called. He thought EU leaders were lacking urgency in supplying detail on the bailout and on how much the banks needed recapitalising. "And as for the new rescue fund that may be needed sooner than we think, it doesn't actually exist."

Calm, dignified, just political enough – it put the young frontbenchers to shame.

Ed Miliband said the PM had "not a clue", gave "totally hopeless answers" and was "totally out of touch", the PM said the shadow Chancellor was "talking even more rubbish than when he was standing up". His only real connection with the Labour position was to describe the Balls gestures as "questionable salutes". That's not really good enough any more, is it?

Cameron was talking too quickly for a prime minister. He was allowing the Opposition to set the pace and tone of his answers. His voice was too high, and he was saying too many things. Sometimes – as with the Labour vote on the IMF contribution – he says things that are unnecessarily false. He sounds rattled.

He may measure himself against the Leader of the Opposition; he may believe the Tories would win a snap election; he has all the advantages of high office at a time of crisis. Sounding rattled has no advantages.

Surely the point of that half-million pound education is to give us the steadiness under fire of those young officers on the quarterdeck of the victory at Trafalgar? The crash may not have happened yet. The worst is yet to come. Shouldn't our leaders attempt a little stature? And if they all can't, shouldn't the Prime Minister?