This time a week ago David Cameron struck an impressively statesmanlike tone at prime minister’s questions, as we noted at the time.
Today the exchange between the two leaders was again fairly dignified, with Ed Miliband raising international policy issues in the tone of someone who knew that the PM would agree with him. (eg Would he like to see an orderly transition to democracy in Egypt: answer, yes of course).
As Miliband said: “I sense…that people aren’t used to this kind of PMQs.” Cameron later replied: “I’m sure he’s right, people would prefer a bun fight but sometimes it is good to have a serious conversation about issues.”
The Labour leader’s approach may reflect the fact that issues such as Afghanistan (which he visited a week ago) call for gravitas rather than political point-scoring.
Yet Miliband must realise that the Downing St incumbent will always have the upper hand on global current affairs for the simple reason that the prime minister is more involved in international diplomacy than the opposition leader.
I should point out, however, that the civilised start to PMQs later gave way to a series of tough, aggressive questions by Labour backbenchers against the prime minister. They included Vernon Coaker citing a 6-year old autistic boy unable to get treatment, Ronnie Campbell slating the PM for cuts to jobs and pensions, and Anne Clwyd attacking the lay-off of 50 disabled “Remploy” workers in her constituency.
Perhaps this is the new pattern for future PMQs: Ed Miliband seeks to augment his “above-the-fray” credentials before a wave of his colleagues wade in to savage the government. You can see the logic to the tactic.