David Cameron is not always a perfect performer at the weekly prime minister’s questions – sometimes the charming confidence tips over into a somewhat bullying manner.
But today showed why he is so effective in the post. In an otherwise unmemorable PMQs, Cameron demonstrated how to neutralise difficult questions by displaying a degree of candour.
Asked at the start by Ed Miliband what he thought of the disappointing growth figures, Cameron simply said: yes he was disappointed, progress would be choppy, and the data would have been glum even if the ONS had stripped out the freezing weather.
When Miliband came back with a follow-up question, Cameron replied: “It’s exactly what the figures show, yes.”
Asked later about youth unemployment, Cameron didn’t try to spray out a list of job creation schemes, apprenticeship programmes and so on. Instead he conceded this was a challenge – albeit a structural problem that had been growing for many years.
Can you imagine Gordon Brown responding in this kind of way?
PMQs later descended to the usual insult-hurling when Cameron labelled Miliband and Balls as “Gordon Brown’s two henchmen“; but the visiting dignatories from Bangladesh had witnessed a reasonably dignified debate.
UPDATE: One reader writes in to point out that it was Miliband who helped create a more civilised debating platform by asking measured questions in a level manner; that is true.