Ed Miliband won PMQTs today by playing the man as much as the ball. Most intriguing was his heavy use of phrases like "arrogant" and "smug" towards Cameron.
"Total arrogance! ... How bad do things have to get in our economy to shake him out of his complacency."
"He and his Chancellor are the byword for self-satisfied, smug complacency."
" .. put aside [your] pride and arrogance ... "
At first glance, these are just adjectives that the focus groupies have found to be toxic for the Dave brand. But it's actually a bit more than that.
I'm told by a shadow cabinet source that the key purpose is to reinforce Ed's message that Cameron is "out of touch". But subliminally they go further, by planting the idea that the PM is an over-privileged toff. Complacency implies he is insulated from the real world. Arrogance suggests he sees himself as belonging to an elite. Smugness, that it is an uncaring elite. Pride suggests his sense of superiority outweighs his sense of justice.
It's reminiscent of, but much more subtle than, the controversial tactics that Gordon Brown's people tried in 2007 and 2008, when they hired kids in top hats to follow the PM around. It all backfired, of course, and was (mostly) abandoned after a bit of a hoo-ha at the disastrous Crewe & Nantwich by-election in 2008.
My source insists the current campaign is legitimate because it is reflects Cameron's political choices, which Labour regard as favouring the few, arguing: "We can't use class war, but we can remind people that he has not experienced in his life what they have to go through in theirs, which influences what he does."
Some may well disagree, viewing it as "playing the man" rather than the issue. But what's undeniable is that it worked this afternoon. Cameron had no ready retort.
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