Prime Minister's Questions: Enlightening if not edifying

David Cameron speaking during Prime Minister's Questions Image copyright PA

It may not be the most edifying of experiences but if you listen hard to Prime Minister's Questions it can be enlightening - if, that is, you want to understand how Ed Miliband and David Cameron think they can secure power next May.

Both men start from a pretty miserable position.

This week Labour's poll ratings slipped below 30% - a level not seen since the days of Gordon Brown.

This has led many in the party - including some senior figures - to wonder if the country has made up its mind that Ed Miliband is not up to being prime minister.

David Cameron dubbed his opponent "a dead parrot" in the hope that the press will write him off as a loser before the election campaign even begins.

Mr Miliband believes that renewed Tory divisions over Europe and the defection of their supporters and MPs to UKIP could rescue his hopes of reaching No 10.

That's why he asked David Cameron to say clearly whether he was in favour of staying in or getting out of the EU.

If he had said "in" he would have enraged many Eurosceptics. If he had said "out" he would have horrified big business. By saying neither Labour can portray him as threatening Britain's prosperity by creating uncertainty over the country's most important economic relationship.

Some who watch PMQs regard the shouting and the heckling as evidence of the madness of our political classes. There is, though, method in it.