Sometimes when a leader of the opposition has a lot of different attacks to make on a prime minister at PMQs, they try to spread themselves too thinly and end up not hitting home with any of their pre-prepared lines.
Not so today. Ed Miliband was faced with a choice selection of easy pickings with which to attack the prime minister, and blended them together perfectly to leave David Cameron looking red-faced and ineffectual.
The Labour leader began with an uncharacteristically well-delivered joke about the apparent u-turn on minimum alcohol pricing:
Is there anything he can organise in a brewery?
It was a left-field question, obviously not designed for an answer. Cameron stumbled in his attempts to carve out a joke from it:
I am hoping to organise a party to which he would be very welcome: a party to celebrate that the shadow chancellor should stay on the shadow front bench for a long time.
It would have been better not to try at all – but the PM kept plugging his rather weak joke in response to further attacks from the Labour front bench.
Miliband: The prime minister said: “The independent Office of Budgetary Responsibility is absolutely clear that the deficit reduction plan in not responsible for low growth.” That is not what they say, will he admit that?
Cameron: The interesting thing about British politics today is that I have got the top team I want and he has got the top team I want too.
[Cameron talks about car production being higher than ever]
Miliband: He talks about car production, but it’s ‘Taxi for Cameron’ after that answer.
It’s so bad that they sent out Baroness Warsi this weekend. She said: “He has the support of large parts of his party.” Maybe he has even got the support of large parts of his cabinet. It’s not just the country that’s lost confidence in the chancellor and his economic plan, it is his whole cabinet.
Cameron: My party has enormous support for his leadership, as long as he keeps the shadow chancellor.
Cameron then tried to hit back at Miliband, quoting the list of dinners he has had recently with union bosses. But by that time, not even his own MPs were cheering very loudly.
What does this tell us beyond today’s session? That with senior Tories and Liberal Democrats starting to veer away from the government’s economic message, Cameron and Osborne are beginning to look a bit less protected on the one main point that binds the coalition.
It also shows that Cameron is leading from the front when it comes to delivering the latest campaigning advice from their new elections guru, Lynton Crosby. He told a packed meeting of Tory MPs last night to stop fighting among themselves and start focusing on Labour, especially on Ed Balls, whom the Tories obviously believe is Labour’s weak link.
It is also worth mentioning that the one Cameron line that did work was his most tried and tested attack on Labour – “All they want is debt, debt and more debt.” It’s a line we can expect to hear at pretty much every PMQs until the election.