Sketch: Miliband comes a cropper in a by-the-numbers PMQs

Miliband and Cameron dance the same old dance, which always ends with a minor beating.

By Ian Dunt

The Miliband-Cameron PMQs tradition is now firmly established and the two seems perfectly happy with their roles. By the end of it Miliband is always on the floor bleeding while Tory backbenchers gather round with horrible sneering faces to point and laugh at him. It's perfectly good fun, if you're into that sort of thing. It's not unlike a Berlin S&M club or a one of those marvellously Japanese videos the British Film Classification board are so keen on.

Miliband began, as he always does, by standing stick thin (remarkable diet the man's on, he's even rid himself of his shoulders) and asking a sarcastic question. This week it was unemployment numbers – something of a quarterly event this – and the dripping irony of a seemingly innocent question. "How does he feel his government's policy is going?" That sort of thing. Cameron does some passable footwork, a (presumably imaginary) list of measures being taken, usually a bit of questioning of the statistics. The Tories are silent, realising rather suddenly that their leader frankly is not all that and that one day a man will stand at the opposing lectern and be efficiently ghastly to him.

Miliband does a couple of 'same old Tories' lines. Then Cameron fires off a couple of zingers. "He's so incompetent he can't even do a U-turn properly," he said today. It is not, you will notice, wit. But it passes for wit, in a manner which would quite defeat a British patriot. The Tory benches perk up, their stretched, battered faces making gargling noises in a traditional parliamentary celebration. Miliband has a poor response, relying ever more on a dwindling series of uninspiring soundbites ('too far too fast', 'change course' etc). The Tories start getting all orgasmic, swinging about on their benches and screaming 'more', like Miss Havisham on absinthe. The press sneer. Labour MPs look like a child who's just seen the reality of British industry.

And so we have it. The resentful wife unable to break the cycle of abuse. The nasty voyeuristic thrills of neighbouring backbenchers. The sullen despondency of Labour MPs. No change today.