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Wednesday 16th May 2012 | 14:06
New session, new polling, new look. The Labour front bench returned to Parliament in a dazzling red for PMQs. The women wore bright colour-coordinated jackets. Alongside them the men, led by Ed Miliband, were in matching crimson ties. The orders were out: it was time to dress to impress – rather too eagerly so, perhaps.
Policing, the economy, nursing cuts: like someone trying to fit too many parties into one evening in the diary, Mr Miliband flitted around from one to another, and failed to properly make the most of his many invitations.
Though looking a little crumpled in comparison, David Cameron was still eager to dazzle, taking on Mr Miliband in a peculiar courting of Francois Hollande, as the pair fluttered eyelashes – but teasingly refused to declare undying love – across the English Channel.
"The French president, when asked how to stimulate growth, said the means can’t be public spending, because we want to rein it in" said Mr Cameron, confusingly comparing his own political credo to the socialist now running France.
Mr Miliband was unimpressed – after all, the Prime Minister hadn't even found the time to meet the then Mr Hollande on his recent tour to England. Perhaps he could have sent President Hollande a text message, suggested Mr Miliband, adding: "I’m sure text messages and LOL will go down just as well". Tory MPs as much as anyone roared with laughter, but Mr Cameron kept his – mildly-blushing – face in his notes and turned to the 'phone-gags' page.
"I have to admit that perhaps I've been overusing my mobile phone, but at least as Prime Minister I know how to use a mobile phone rather than just throw it at the people who work for me."
A smiling Mr Miliband held up his hands in defeat as MPs LOLed all over the place, but when the laughing was over there was little excitement to be found.
"Oh dear – he's having a bad day…" the PM noted sharply after one meandering question from Mr Miliband. An average day perhaps, but not a bad day, not especially.
In response, the Labour front bench, led by their conductor Ed Balls, gestured for Mr Cameron to calm down. "I'm extremely calm" the PM reassured them. And he was, more or less.
"I know he's going to have extensive training before he goes before Leveson – I think it should include anger management," continued Mr Miliband, firmly on pre-cooked mode. That would have worked better in a week when Mr Cameron's visage was a vein-bursting angry puce. Today, however, it was his usual ruddy healthiness, all the more impressive given that the PM revealed in an answer to Peter Hain – champion of the Severn barrage – that he was listening to Farming Today only that morning. That's a 5:30am start: more pre-alarm clock Britain than alarm clock Britain.
Perhaps everyone else had been tuning in; energy levels were distinctly low in the Chamber. With counting the number of red ties on display proving the most interesting entertainment, the PM then found something interesting in the Labour reshuffle to catch his eye. For over at the bar of the House stood Liam Byrne who, as of yesterday, is no longer in charge of Labour's policy review. That role has gone to Jon Cruddas, and when the prime minister mocked the new man for complaining that Labour was "not close enough to the Unions", the Blarite Mr Byrne rocked delightedly with laughter
"Is he weak or left-wing? The problem is, he’s both" Mr Cameron declared of Mr Miliband, briefly forgetting his wooing of President Hollande. If he was watching, the French President would not have been impressed by much, except perhaps the efforts made to wear matching colours.
Sam Macrory is political editor of The House Magazine
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