David Cameron is a bit on edge. Generally speaking, this improves his performances, by lending them a touch of asperity.
Today he demonstrated a surprising keenness to cross the road and beat up the Labour Party. Not for him the complacent view that the Labour Party is quite good enough at beating itself up.
The Prime Minister chose a liberal issue and clubbed Labour over the head with it. He suddenly declared in an angry tone, while answering a question about women, that there must be “no more segregated political meetings”.
He added that bigoted religious views can no longer be tolerated: “I think we should all take the pledge – no more segregated meetings.”
Note the word “we”: Cameron places himself at the head of what he presents as the only reputable opinion. After all, what Labour member is likely to challenge what he said, and call for a degree of respect to be shown for traditions, whether Christian, Muslim or Jewish, which entail a degree of segregation.
The Prime Minister presents himself, for the purposes of political combat, as an intolerant liberal. He is actually an Anglican, which is a much subtler thing, but he knows there is not the slightest point in trying to explain his own religious inheritance at PMQs.
How much more convenient for this eloquent and versatile product of a traditional, single-sex education to step forward as the fearless champion, in the political sphere, of complete equality.
The reason Cameron is on edge is that he needs to win the referendum, which means he needs to defeat a numerous and increasingly angry body of opinion within his own party.
Sir Bill Cash (Con, Stone), who had entered the Chamber with Jacob Rees-Mogg (Con, North East Somerset), complained that the three White Papers the Government has published about Europe fail to meet the requirement of being “accurate and impartial”.
The Prime Minister rebuffed this by saying that people like Sir Bill should “challenge the content” and “stop having an argument about the process”.
Once again, Cameron was asserting his moral superiority, by implying that he deals with content, while his adversaries are obsessed by mere procedure. This is an incredibly insulting, indeed constitutionally illiterate thing to say to someone like Sir Bill, who has devoted decades of his life to getting to grips with the dry, dull, but extremely important content of European measures, and who also knows that procedure is a vital part of parliamentary politics.
Jeremy Corbyn was out of it. He told us he was asking his hundredth question, but the more we see of him, the less impressive he looks. Labour have got to get rid of him.
Whether Cameron is forced to go, or steps down at some time of his choosing, whoever succeeds him as Conservative leader will surely find it irresistible to call an immediate general election if Corbyn is still in charge.
Richard Burgon (Lab, Leeds East), asked whether, in the event of a Leave vote in the referendum, the Prime Minister will resign – “Yes or No”?
“No,” Cameron answered, with admirable brevity.