The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland brought his bottom to the House of Commons today and got it a good kicking.
Having spent much of the last month on the run abroad he finally bowed to the inevitable and appeared in public to face the charge of being guilty for the crime of Budget 2012.
Flanked by his co-defendants George Osborne and Nick Clegg, he was accused of presiding over the “omnishambles” which has led to the worst four weeks in his political life and a double-digit lead for Labour in the opinion polls.
To be fair to David Cameron, he also brought his brass neck to the Commons to help him through the half hour of ritual humiliation otherwise known as Prime Ministers Questions.
But even that was not enough to save him from the taunts of Ed Miliband who happily listed all the disasters and u-turns from pasties to charities which have characterized the Coalition since the budget leaked its way into the public domain.
Even his topped-up tan could not disguise his nervousness as PMQs got underway, and encouraging asides from the architect of the disaster, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, did little to calm him down.
Knowing a beating was on its way had led to survival plans being drawn up. These seemed to include handing out megaphones to selected back benchers who always shout in direct proportion to the trouble their leader is in. The problem for the Prime Minister today was working out who was shouting for him and who at him and that was just from his own side.
Survival Plan Two is the one that Dave has increasingly adopted since Ed M finally got his measure at PMQs, which is to ignore the bit which says “PMQs”. So today when Ed asked about cutting taxes for the rich, Dave replied by asking the Labour leader about Ken Livingstone’s opaque attitude to the inland revenue.
Ken might have been heartened to get more name-checks in 30 minutes from the Prime Minister than he has had in as many months from Ed M, but as ever in his career he was being conjured up to beat his own party around the head.
But even Ed was only momentarily unsettled by this, Dave’s best shot, and pounced back to list the disasters that have turned this budget into a how-not-to-do-it lecture for politicians in years to come.
In one fell swoop the Prime Minister and his pals have managed to upset pensioners, the churches, philanthropists, caravan owners not to mention the population of Cornwall who apparently subsist on a diet of pasties. In fact so loud was the clamour that the good people of Cornwall could have listened to it merely by opening a window.
Speaker Bercow, himself rested after the Easter break and no recent TV appearances by his spouse, was forced to his feet to complain which only served to remind Tory back benchers of someone they dislike maybe even more than Ken.
There have been concerns in Labour circles that Ed M is too nice to out the boot in properly – unlike his Tory opposite number who has at least an A Level in bullying. But it was no more Mr Nice Guy today as Ed, egged on by his much more qualified namesake Ed B, laid it on.
Indeed, as Dave now appeared to be shouting himself down, the two Eds made a joint appeal for calm.
This had the required effect and the Prime Minister’s face took on a mottled hue only spotted towards the top end of the colour chart as he tried to roar his way out of trouble.
All this contrasted well with the ghostly pallor of the Chancellor and his deputy Danny Alexander who have clearly spent the last few weeks hiding out.
Earlier the fourth member of the Quad who collectively delivered the budget had appeared on the Today programme for a light toasting from Evan Davis. In a bravura performance and not withstanding his collapse behind Ukip in the polls, Nick Clegg admitted he would love to be Prime Minister.
But probably not today.
Originally published in The New Statesman