A lot has been said about the mugging that passed for parliamentary procedure which occurred yesterday. It had been widely predicted that Brown would get a kicking from Cameron, and he did. Simon Hoggart sums it up pretty well in the Guardian, and if this is the view of the centre-left press then a Labour Prime Minister must know how badly things went. Do PMQs matter though? William Hague was pretty good against Tony Blair, but it never translated into electoral support. So, can the Brownites laugh it off as the doings of the Westminster bubble, disconnected from the real world? Well, there are some key differences between the Hague/Blair dynamic and what the situation today. Most importantly, Tony Blair always operated inside a coherent political strategy that he did not allow to be deflected by short-term events. He also had a very good team around him, who understood how to operate in the face of the modern media. The other thing was that while Hague often spoke very well, Blair was pretty good too and he was always willing to laugh at himself in a way that kept the whole affair pretty good-humoured. For Brown, in contrast, strategy seems to consist of lurching from one short-term wheeze to another and his media operation seems to think that you can tell bare-faced, obvious lies and no-one will know or care. His personal performance is also pretty bad, and he loses his temper far too easily. It was also astonishing how little support he seemed to get from his own troops in the House. In fact it seemed that they were genuinely appalled at his poor performance.
Does it matter? I think that it does, not because we have a good speaker up against a weaker opponent, but because it illustrates that we have a good leader up against a weaker opponent. And people are noticing.