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Wednesday 23rd May 2012 | 13:43
Almost as soon as he'd said it, the PM looked like he regretted calling Ed Balls* a 'muttering idiot' at PMQs today.
George Osborne laughed like a drain, but David Cameron will be kicking himself that he let Balls' constant sledging get under his skin.
He withdrew the 'idiots' remark when asked by the Speaker, but perhaps showed even greater contrition later. During the G8 statement, he told Dennis Skinner that "I deeply regret" calling him a dinosaur who needs to take his pension early**.
The problem is that when the PM loses his temper, he risks losing those voters he's spent years trying to get on board as Tory supporters. Women were particularly uneasy about the 'calm down dear' line he lobbed at Angela Eagle.
Today, on Wato, Norman Lamont had a telling line about the man who used to be his special adviser in the 1990s:
"He can be quite volatile, yes. I think that makes him more engaging...."
That sounded awfully as if the former Chancellor felt that flashes of Flashman are 'a price worth paying' for the raw passion you get from Cameron.
A Labour source has pounced on the Cam temper as 'deeply un-Prime Ministerial': "The Prime Minister is increasingly losing his temper because he's increasingly losing the House of Commons and increasingly losing the economic argument."
The PM will say that's baloney.
But he's more aware than most that he can redden when he gets animated - and that Labour's main aim is to rile him.
Today, he may worry he turned an effective attack on Red Ed (and his union links) into a story about Red Dave...
UPDATE: Ed Balls (who was doing his calm down hand gesture through out PMQs) has now tweeted his own explanation:
"For the record, I was simpy asking the Prime Minister, as he boasted the economy was on track: 'Tell us about the recession'.."
Funnily enough, he fails to mention that he was relentlessly sledging Cameron earlier in PMQs with this kind of stuff: "How many glasses of wine did you have? How many glasses of wine have you had today?"
For the uninitiated, that was a reference to the Cameron biography about how he 'chillaxes' with upto five glasses of wine at Sunday lunch.
Before the explosion, ITN's Tom Bradby presciently saw that the sledging would cause trouble. He tweeted: I think the interesting tactical point is that Cameron doesn't seem sure whether he should attack, mock or ignore him."
FOOTNOTES: *Cam famously once told The Sunday Telegraph the reason Balls got to him was "the endless, ceaseless banter, it's like having someone with Tourette's permanently sitting opposite you". Funnily enough, he had to apologise for that too..
** Cam's last attack on Skinner is here on the BBC website. "Well, the honourable gentleman has the right, at any time, to take his pension and I advise him to do so."
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