Matthew Parris writes a memo to David Cameron today urging him to lay off the custard pies and stop hurling tomatoes at Prime Minister's Questions. In fact the former Conservative MP tells the party's current leader to 'settle into something more grown-up'. The image is almost that the leader of the opposition is coming in wearing oversized shoes, slap on his face and a red nose, ready to reach across the dispatch bow pull at the Prime Minister's belt and pour water down inside.
Matthew says that this week Dave got bogged down in the detail of the Edlington issue and therefore had lost momentum when it came to the Prime Minister's time to respond. Indeed it did take the two of them half of the allotted time for PMQs to get through their exchange. Compare that to Nick Clegg's two clear concise showings (well he does have four less questions) which struck a cord with the public and the media. Week one Nick asked about the Prime Minister appearing before the Chilcot inquiry on Iraq, now we know that had the Prime Minister on the ropes and he is now to enter the ring properly before the general election.
This week he wound up with a three punch combination bankers, job losses and divisions in the ranks. The Royal Bank of Scotland which we basically own, lending money to but a British institution to a company that the Business Secretary had said he would stop doing so.
The PM is hurling back jibes at both Cameron and Clegg. He knows that the next time he hits the canvas he is unlikely to get up again. But the number one contender is up there at this level yet to flick these back. Nick only gets one chance for a come back to the sneering Brown. After the 'little economics lecture' jibe he came back with the punch "Is that not just plain wrong?".
The first two PMQs of the year Parris says were knockabout stuff from Cameron when the public are not looking for knockabout stuff. They are as he says looking for a Prime Ministerial voice. Of course there is one proviso to using the Prime Ministerial voice, you have to be Prime Minister, to do that you need to express your message to the people, and it has to resonate with them. Cameron has got bogged down in that to, Nick however is instinctively getting that right too.