When Dave Cameron became Conservative leader he pledged at his first PMQs to eschew punch and judy politics. Unfortunately he does have a tendency to play a 'Flashman' role in relation to Gordon Brown, attempting to humiliate him at question time. Yesterday he asked a series of questions about alleged extremist influence at two Islamic schools which had received public funds. Unfortunately, he had not got all his facts right and has subsequently had to beat a partial retreat.
I was able to watch PMQs yesterday and Dave started in low tempo asking questions about how long it would take to erect temporary replacement bridges in flood afflicted areas of Cumbria. He then switched on to the Muslim extremist issue where he obviously thought he was on to a winner. The flaw with this type of approach is that it makes him look more like a combative leader of the opposition rather than a prime minister in waiting.
One poll at the weekend showed the Conservative lead narrowing to 6 per cent. It was only one poll and one would want to see more for confirmation of a trend. However, private polling for the Conservatives shows that Dave's austerity message has not been going down too well and he has started to talk about growth again.
How much does all this matter in the broader scheme of things? Probably not very much. The Conservatives are still on track to be the largest party in the next Parliament at the very least and in that event Nick Clegg has said that he will support them. This may be a constitutionally proper stance, but it does seem like showing one's hand before play has commenced.