Siôn Simon on Ed Miliband’s first PMQs

All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Not for a moment have I missed sitting on the green benches. Not for a wistful split-second have I wished that I had the choice again. As I’ve watched them twist and turn in the Westminster wind, and remembered how it feels, there’s been nothing but relief that it isn’t me any more.

Until today. Ed Miliband’s first prime minister’s questions was a great parliamentary moment. A performance of such assurance and aplomb on the first day of such an inexperienced leader that it will be long remembered.

All new party leaders begin by promising an end to the punch and judy style of traditional PMQs. They never mean it. Substantively, Miliband doesn’t mean it either. It’s not a debate; it’s a fight; and he wants to win. But presentationally – and may the ghost of Frank Johnson forgive me for the phrase – he just changed the game.

At a stroke, by simply willing it, he halved the heat and pace of what has always been a stupidly uproarious affair, and effortlessly took control.

At first he seemed so slow that one feared the worst. But he held his nerve and within a minute was completely in command of the occasion.

The prime minister was visibly unnerved by his new opponent’s extraordinary ease and effectiveness. He was quietly but firmly placed on ground he cannot win, politely asked questions he can’t answer, and embarrassingly kept there till Miliband’s time ran out. It was a remarkable performance. And Cameron hated it.

I can see Steve Hilton’s brain racing as he starts to process what just happened. It changes everything. Cameron came to office facing a great leader on the way out. Then, two years later, as Cameron began to hit his stride, Blair was replaced by Brown, who never really mastered PMQs.

What Cameron faces now is a young unknown who not only swept the prime minister aside on his first outing, but will improve every month.

And any one who thinks this is “just PMQs” understands nothing about modern politics. It’s pure communication. It’s soundbites. It’s television. It’s what works. And Miliband was brilliant. Much, much better than Cameron.

This was more than just a bravura performance by the new leader. It was a moment of hope.

Bravo.


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7 Responses to “Siôn Simon on Ed Miliband’s first PMQs”

  1. Alex Ross says:

    Not that we want to get carried away mind.

  2. Brilliantly put. We all had a frisson of concern when he started so slowly and deliberately, but you’re absolutely right that within a minute we knew it was a winning approach. I especially like “He was quietly but firmly placed on ground he cannot win, politely asked questions he can’t answer, and embarrassingly kept there till Miliband’s time ran out.” Cameron will be worried now. Good.

  3. Great Post, echos my sentiments entirely

  4. Couldn’t have put it better.

  5. Andy Davis says:

    I thought he was very poor unfortunately. The reason he wants to change the style of the exchanges at PMQs is that will struggle to defend his part in creating the defecit and if exchanges get heated, Cameron has enough ammunition to blow him out of the water.

    On Cameron’s first PMWs he rocked Blair with the put-down “you were the future once”. Ed landed no blows on Cameron today and it was a very nervous start.

  6. MarcJ says:

    He no more has to defend the Labour leaders he has replaced than Cameron has to the ones he replaced. He may however have to start making a case for not having to come up with alternatives or actually reveal what he would do in power (it’s a good argument that he is there to challenge the government not do its job for them but Britain wants to hear his ideas).

  7. Chris says:

    @Andy Davis

    Were you listening to the CCHQ audio dubbing?

    “The reason he wants to change the style of the exchanges at PMQs is that will struggle to defend his part in creating the defecit”

    WTF? Do you have any understanding of economics? Labour, correctly, decided not to cut public spending during the worst recession in 80 years; doing so would have lead to a depression. What has Ed got to worry about there?

    “Cameron has enough ammunition to blow him out of the water.”

    Like what? Cameron was committed to matching Labour’s investment plans until late 2008.

    “On Cameron’s first PMWs he rocked Blair with the put-down “you were the future once”. Ed landed no blows on Cameron today and it was a very nervous start.”

    Yawn…as I said you must have had the CCHQ dubbing on.

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