PMQs SKETCH: Ed, the Final Victim of Miller’s Resignation

Six questions on Maria Miller’s resignation, or five questions and a peroration.

Is that what’s meant by “holding the Executive to account”? It’s just as well Recall isn’t in place, Ed’s feet wouldn’t touch the ground.

He fired five blanks, got two potshots off and finished with a summary of his discontent in four disjointed sentences. Viz:

1) “He just doesn’t get it.” (Did someone shout Bingo?)

2) “He needs to learn profound lessons about how he runs his Government.” (Does he? From this, the passing zephyr of an insignificant minister?)

3) “The Culture Secretary went not because of her bad conduct but because of her bad press.” (This must have been a line left over from the pre-PMQs planning session.)

4) “He promised in Opposition to be an apostle for better standards and he’s spent the last week being an apologist for unacceptable behaviour.” (It was the big line. Apostle/apologist. Ed put the ass in assonance.)

It wasn’t an easy topic, and while friends and foes will have different reactions, objective observers will agree the Leader of HM’s Opposition made a complete **** of himself. Too strong? A complete @£$% of himself.

To go through the exchanges.

The plan was to ask Cameron a simple, innocent question – what had he learnt from the episode.

Cameron said the lesson was not to over-react and instantly dismiss someone. Not a bad reply, in the moment.

Miliband, assuming he was going to have no answer said, “He has no answer.” Friends winced. Then he said, “What in his view did the Culture Secretary do wrong?”

This cunning question can either be answered with a list of her crimes (and the PM denounced for not acting earlier), or by saying she didn’t do anything wrong (and be denounced for being out of touch).

But Cameron played a cleverly dead bat. “She set out the reasons for her resignation in her letter.” That avenue was henceforth blocked. It was bollarded. Which didn’t stop Labour trying it. In their do-or-die stupidity they seemed almost like Tories.

Cameron continued: “She was accused of a serious offence, housing her parents at public expense. She was cleared of that allegation.”

That is correct. But Miliband, assuming the second line of his prepared argument was in play said: “I’ve got to say to him, it will be completely unclear to the country why the Culture Secretary is not still in her job. Because he thinks she did nothing wrong.” (A general, “Huh?”)

Ed himself had to itemize the wrongdoing: “She refused to co-operate with the inquiry. She breached the Code of Conduct. She gave a perfunctory and inadequate apology to this House.”

Put like that, it hardly seems worth a resignation. A perfunctory apology? He had to pull something special out of the bag.

It was time for the damaged puppy.

It’s an expression he sometimes uses, to hint at a bruise of the soul. He put it on to tell the Prime Minister he had made “a terrible” – and it was more a groan than a word, a suffering groan – “a terrible error of judgement.”

The poor boy, how could the PM do this to him? His faith – his very faith – in politics has been damaged by this terrible error of judgement?

What language will he have left when a terrible error of judgement is made? Making Rachel Reeves shadow chancellor? Doing a Rubik’s cube at Conference, eyelids fluttering.

For all his public suffering, for all his indignation on our behalf, when Miliband scores a debating point, he lets his teeth out, laughs like a horse, and looks around for applause. It’s all about him, still, not about the issue. That’s what makes him sixth form.

So, if some brutal electoral arithmetic does make him premier, no one should be surprised when he demonstrates his own brilliant judgement by invading the first Middle Eastern country that puts its hand up.

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