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David Cameron reinvents himself as the most brutal street fighter in the Commons

By Andrew Gimson 
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If the noise at Prime Minister's Questions continues at its present deafening level, David Cameron and AndrewGBigBensketchtwoEd Miliband will soon be unable to hear anything, and will be reduced to communicating with each other in sign language. Or perhaps they have already gone deaf, which is why each man ignores what the other has to say.

Here is a flavour of Mr Cameron's oratory: "They don't want to hear...they're paid to shout....they've [i.e. the trade unions have] bought the policies, they've bought the candidates and they've bought the leader...It's not the party of the people, it's the party of Len McCluskey."

These taunts led Labour MPs to roar louder and longer than I can ever remember them doing, as if determined to blot out their insufferably rude opponent. Mr Miliband, his demeanour that of a child who is being bullied at school but is determined not to give in, tried to get his own back by asking Mr Cameron "how much his party has received in donations from hedge funds" and by describing him as "a man owned by a few millionaires".

The Speaker, John Bercow, complained that we "can't just have a wall of noise", and appealed for "some basic manners", but for much of the time a wall of noise is what we got. The curious thing is that Mr Cameron has excellent manners when he chooses to use them. But perhaps he has decided his good manners have deprived him of "authenticity", that elusive quality seen as so desirable in a modern political leader.

So instead we got Mr Cameron as a sarcastic bully, seizing every chance to goad Mr Miliband, of whom he at one point said: "No wonder he thinks like Buddha - he wants to be reincarnated and come back as a proper leader." I may have the start of this quotation slightly wrong, for the noise made it almost impossible to hear the exact words, but the urge to mock and humiliate Mr Miliband was clear enough.

A week ago these tactics proved highly effective in setting the political agenda and forcing Mr Miliband to react to questions about the trade unions' power over the Labour Party. The relentlessness of the onslaught was what made it so effective. Yet one could not help wishing for a greater use of light and shade. The worst thing for Mr Miliband would be to be laughed at by his own side, because Mr Cameron had made jokes about him, or had sympathised with the difficulty of his task.

But perhaps the Prime Minister has decided he does not wish to overdo it, and precipitate the downfall of Mr Miliband. Labour MPs are to be forced to support their own leader against the taunts of Mr Cameron. The Prime Minister has reinvented himself as the most brutal street fighter in the Commons, It is a disconcerting and coarsening transformation - or perhaps it is just an act, for every so often Mr Cameron gives one of those quick smiles which suggest he knows he is just pretending.






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