By Andrew Gimson
Follow Andrew on Twitter
Lynton Crosby has never lobbied David Cameron on anything to do with cigarettes or alcohol. The Prime Minister insisted, when challenged on this point, that he is only interested in learning one thing from Mr Crosby: "How we destroy the credibility of the Labour Party." Mr Cameron added that this was a subject in which Mr Crosby has "considerable expertise", but is something Labour is even better at doing for itself.
One might add that this is also a subject in which Mr Cameron has considerable expertise. On leaving Oxford, he went straight into the Conservative Research Department, where he mastered the technique of making a close study of Labour policy in order to demonstrate, with the help of quotation, that it is riven by fatal contradictions.
So what we get nowadays at Prime Minister's questions is a perpetual assault by Mr Cameron on the Labour Party, of a kind which a gifted desk officer in the Conservative Research Department of the late 1980s might make. It is a professional performance, but also a rather mean-spirited and constricted one. In vain the Speaker, John Bercow, told the Prime Minister to concentrate on government policy. Mr Cameron was more interested in the Opposition's policies. At frequent intervals he would give yet another example of something Labour had got wrong before declaring "What a complete shambles", "Another shambles", "Just another display of extraordinary weakness" and so on and so forth.
Amid this torrent of negativity, it was delightful to see a man who is happy. Sir Edward Leigh (Con, Gainsborough), rose to ask a question. He began by saying that "occasionally one should be grateful: Sir Edward has just received a knighthood. It has put him in such a good mood that he felt impelled to list various excellent measures being introduced by the Government, before asserting that it is "possible to be Conservative, popular and right at the same time".
How one hopes Sir Edward is correct in his view. The Conservatives have not been popular for a long time. If they were popular, perhaps they would find it easier to be generous and expansive and self-confident, which in turn might make it easier for voters to warm to them.
But I must end by drawing attention to another bad prime ministerial habit which seems to be getting worse. At last week's PMQ's, Mr Cameron referred to "my ministers", and this week he referred to George Osborne as "my Chancellor". This sense of ownership is entirely misplaced. He and the rest of them are actually the Queen's ministers.