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PMQs Sketch: More Bitch Than Butch

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Ed Balls Had Some New Hand Gestures At PMQs As Cameron Repeatedly Attacked The Shadow Chancellor
Ed Balls Had Some New Hand Gestures At PMQs As Cameron Repeatedly Attacked The Shadow Chancellor

"That's just how assertive and butch the leader of the opposition is," said David Cameron of Ed Miliband, after revelations that the Labour leader makes a cup of coffee for Ed Balls every morning.

But the reality was neither man sounded particularly butch at the first PMQs of the autumn term, which conveyed a sense of two leaders who hadn't been to the gym for weeks and were struggling with the dumb bells. Ed Miliband said of George Osborne: "It's good to see the chancellor in his place," adding: "the Paralympic crowd spoke for Britain" by humiliating Osborne with their booing.

Some pollster seems to have told David Cameron that Ed Balls tests worse among the public than Ed Miliband, because the shadow chancellor was the subject of most of the girly swipes from the PM, primarily for wrecking the economy. "I've got my first choice for chancellor, he's got his third choice," Cameron said of Miliband - a rather tired gag which is now almost two years old.

Balls has learned a couple of new hand gestures over the summer to wave at Cameron during PMQs, although as this picture shows, they're not the most masculine, while Miliband gave the impression of someone who'd spent the whole summer jotting down questions to ask the PM for their first encounter after the recess.

There must have been a thesis somewhere. Perhaps Miliband thought he was behaving like a renowned barrister, weaving together seemingly disparate elements to reach a devastating conclusion - the recovery hasn't even got off the ground.

In response Cameron ran the risk of sounding like the voice of the telescreens from Nineteen Eighty-Four, reeling off endless stats and figures which suggested a tiger-like economic boom was just around the corner.

"It takes time, it is difficult but it is the only long term way out of the economic problems," said the PM.

"The private sector is growing and expanding, you're seeing the fastest rate of business creation in a decade."

Both leaders tried to muster their backbenchers into a call-and-response game which can easily be over-used, especially when both sides try to use it at once. Cameron kicked it off, trying to rouse a rallying cry of "nothing" from Tories when asking what Labour had to offer in alternative. Then Ed Miliband tried to get in the act, but really neither side was up for a chanting session.

But Cameron made a pretty silly blunder on his final answer to Ed Miliband, saying: "In spite of all the economic difficulty, this is a united government." What he said immediately after that was lost on everyone, drowned out as it was by loud and genuine Labour hysterics.

Final verdict:

Ed Miliband: Popeye
David Cameron: Olive Oyl