Simon Carr:

The Sketch: New generation, old ways of sparring

Share
Related Topics

MPs standing five deep at the bar of the House, the galleries packed, an intent audience looked down at the Dispatch Box adversaries. We had all sensed the possibility of carnage, I'm sorry to have to report. What sadism lurks in our respectable hearts.

These occasions used to make Tony Blair nervous, so what must Edward Miliband have been feeling on his first time out in front of a hostile audience (the Labour party I mean, obviously)?

In that dense, thrilling atmosphere, one word out of place, a hesitation, a misspeaking, a hiccup, a stammer – and the House falls in on you. But as all agreed, he did well. And not merely because he kept control of his face and failed to start ranting about evil penguins. No, his colleagues cheered him in and applauded him out – maybe they'd got the right Miliband after all (which may or may not be the same thing as the right leader).

The Prime Minister, as easy as ever, nodded at him across the table in the last minutes before PMQs began, and mouthed a few words of... what was it? Encouragement? Edward acknowledged the moment with a smile of his own. It's a new world, isn't it?

Or not entirely new. Old ways have something to recommend them, even to the new generation. So he began his career as leader with a consensual first question and offered support on matters of agreement (as Michael Howard did), suggested the "tone" of the proceedings should be changed, and even said it was his job to ask the questions and the PM's job to answer them – an observation made by every opposition leader since William Hague.

He began quietly in his new tone and built a steady five-question crescendo to a good, old-fashioned climax (which Labour loved) denouncing "a shambles from day one". And rightly so. There is considerable evidence to support that proposition. The double earners on £90,000 still getting the benefit, the woeful way the policy was announced and defended, and the way it reaches down to people "on £33,000 after tax".

But Cameron's two arguments sustained him. "I don't think it's fair for the poorest constituents in the Rt Hon gent's constituency to contribute to his child benefit." A good, progressive sort of thing to say – people say they like things to be progressive.

And second, about this "squeezed middle" of people earning £33,000 after tax. "Who squeezed them? Who doubled council tax and put up tax 122 times?" Not to mention pensions, petrol, marriages and mortgages (although actually, he mentioned them as well).

It was, Cameron declared "a completely transparent political strategy" and reminiscent of the endlessly ulterior motives of Gordon Brown. A perfectly good finale to an exciting draw.

One thing, Edward's face. You have to go back to it. It does have a marvellous collection of darkness in it. That may very well come in handy, and sooner than we think.

simonsketch@twitter.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits  

So who, really, is David Cameron, our re-elected ‘one nation’ Prime Minister?

Andrew Grice
Time travel: Thomas Cook has been trading since 1841  

A horror show from Thomas Cook that tells you all you need to know about ethical consumerism

Janet Street-Porter
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?