Chickens and poodles -- just another day at Prime Minister's Questions

David Cameron’s family were in the Commons for what could be his last Prime Minister’s Questions. His daughter Nancy letting out a shout of “yeah” as her dad saw off Ed Miliband.

It was a pretty standard PMQs, featuring chickens, poodles and lame ducks.

The Labour leader had laid out a carefully planned trap for the PM, and so was probably a little surprised how he ended up wriggling on a hook instead.

Mr Miliband clearly wasn’t expecting Mr Cameron to accept his challenge, and rule out a rise in VAT. His response: no-one will you.

Certainly, David Cameron announced five years ago the Conservatives “had no plans” to raise VAT — and then increased it.

But Mr Miliband presumably had yesterday’s select committee performance by George Osborne, who specifically wouldn’t rule out a VAT increase.

It turns out it wasn’t Labour that was laying the trap — it was the Tories, and the opposition leader walked right into it.

Mr Miliband clearly also wasn’t expecting the PM to issue his own challenge — Mr Cameron repeatedly asking him to rule out a rise in National Insurance — and the Labour leader repeatedly ignoring him.

Which made Ed Balls' promise 90 minutes later, to rule out an NI rise in Labour's manifesto, rather puzzling. Why didn't his leader make that promise in the Commons?

The half-hour laid out the likely course of the next six weeks. The Conservatives will accuse Labour of plotting secret tax rises, while preparing to give in to whatever demands Alex Salmond makes to buy off the SNP.

Labour in turn will say Tory promises on tax can’t be trusted, and accuse them of planning deep spending cuts.

Mr Cameron’s pledge is all very well, but Labour have already printed up posters accusing the Tories of plotting  a VAT hike — expect to see them at a junction near you soon.

It remains a pity this is the nearest we’ll get to a head-to-head debate between Cameron and Miliband.

However much PMQs resembles an unruly children’s playground, it does at least engage voters.

A proper debate would probably have engaged them even more.