The Sketch: It's not been a vintage year for PMQs

Cameron's failure has been to let himself be dragged down to Miliband's level
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The Independent Online

In a Commons packed for the last PMQs of the session, where was Jesse Norman? Remember, he was the attractive Tory goofball who claimed that Cameron was covertly encouraging the Lords rebellion. Had he been set to trim the Olympic playing fields with his nail scissors? Possibly he was part of the renovations of the M4? Oh my God – the sausages in the canteen tasted so strongly of Austrian economic theory!

In Jesse's absence, a Tory woman in a sling stole the show. She was bound up tight in a green medical contraption hung round her neck. The arm twisting can go too far. Had they broken it? It wasn't clear what her question was, or even what it was about. It caused a sensation. The cheering and laughing that rose out of the hubbubbery spurred her on to a one-armed jive, the House was angrily delighted.

Ed Miliband nearly made good on his unlikely promise of last year. He had told the PLP at the lowest point of his leadership "I know. I can beat. David Cameron. At the despatch box."

If he'd stopped at question three, he might have.

He used his quiet, man-to-man voice to "remind him why he wanted to be prime minister. With characteristic humility he said, 'I think I'd be good at it'." His daring pause was the high point of his year's Commons performance. It's hardly a vintage year.

Then it was back to the battle of the soundbites. The part-time chancellor. The double dip recession made in Downing Street. We back the workers, they back the shirkers.

Oh dear. Cameron's great failure has been to let himself be dragged down to Miliband's level. Balls' great success has been in the dragging. "Utterly pathetic" is not a prime ministerial remark, and unfortunately it cuts both ways.