The Sketch: Cameron back on his best form - and behaviour

Simon Carr
Thursday 04 February 2010 01:01 GMT

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


"What's PMQs for?" my lunch companion asked. She's in private sector human resources. "What do you mean?" I played for time, it's the sort of question I ought to be able to answer but nothing had sprung to mind.

"All that tribalistic aggression," she said. "You just can't behave like that in the corporate world. Anywhere in the private sector that sort of behaviour would end up in court."

Here's what I might have said. PMQs is the political class at play. The rules are important. If you don't know them you can't join in. Being a class apart, normal civic life doesn't apply.

One small example: Cameron pointed to "that man" and accused him of "ignoring the armed forces until it became politically expedient to do otherwise". At the words "that man" Labour did their up-and-down "Woooooo!" like we did at school.

So the important thing wasn't body armour or helicopters or dead soldiers. No, it was the playground battle of trying to pretend someone has lost their temper when they haven't. Far be it from me to call for better behaviour in the House of Commons but my companion thought it was very off-putting for people on the outside.

The Tories are said to be rattled. Their poll rating has slipped. Cameron had been a bit absent-minded and ill-prepared for the last couple of weeks. He'd been busy. It'll be easier when he's prime minister and has all that time to prepare.

This time he was on much better form, and Brown was much worse. "After 13 years in government and 90 days before an election, what first attracted him to changing the voting system?" With its echo of Mrs Merton's "What attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?" he had his benches rolling and pointing.

Gordon kept saying hopelessly that the Tories were going to fight the election on the hereditary principle (they probably aren't) and Cameron was able to declare the PM was talking "aaaabsolute rubbish!" And, wittily, that there was "only one leader who had inherited his title".

Having said that, let's cast forward to a Tory majority of 30 seats with Cameron leading the Tories. Who will best stand up at Labour's despatch box to oppose him?

The fact is that no one has the weight, the intensity, the loathing, the insane certainty, the fat-tank, bomb-proof forward momentum that Gordon Brown has. Released from the cares of high office, Brown and Balls together are the Opposition combination Tories would be wise to fear.

But imagine the noise! I don't know what my lunch companion will think of PMQs then.

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