PMQs SKETCH: What Did Axelrod Make of That?

“Guys, we’re going to need money. And a message. Attractive people would be good. Not you. Or you, you or you. And a leader, who’s the leader? You got a leader? The one down there now with the teeth and the finger jive? The eight-year-old? Okay, we’re going to need the army as well, does that work over here? Can we get the army? We’re going need the army.”

There are some out there hoping the American will make Ed Miliband into Obama. He made a start today. In the tributes to fallen troops he pronounced lieutenant as lootenant.

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single stumble.

Oh, it’s a long way to go. Obama has a gift for elevated sentiments, if nothing else. That’s what got him into the White House. The audacity of soap. Big language. Soaring thoughts. Ed Miliband lacks the audacity of soap.

The Royal Mail sale, for instance. “Everything about this privatisation stinks,” he said. Stinks. Everything stinks. It’s the language of a disappointed child.

He had some debating points, including a joke – the man who ran the lucky hedge fund which got 20 times the shares of anyone else – he’d been George Osborne’s best man. How was it decided who got what?

It’s a good question, and would have gained purchase with a cool manner and forensic pauses. But Miliband prefers to go through his question-cycle in a fixed crescendo heading for his great climax: “Everything stinks.”

But once again, it was all about Bercow.

The Speaker has been lubricating the Tories since Christmas, following their Winter Uprising. He lost control, if you remember. Since then he’s been oiling them up like a Bangkok hussy, to make them like him.

Thus, he loudly and elaborately upbraided Labour’s Fiona Mactaggart for her barracking. He reminded us with great deliberation that she had been to Cheltenham Ladies College, and caused great Tory merriment by doing so. He glanced back a little, to join in the laughter.

The words “Cheltenham Ladies College” have a very powerful effect on Labour ears. It’s an election-loser in a Labour marginal. It is a wholly unwarrantable for a Speaker to make political points, and entirely typical way the little bully behaves.

To get some comparison, imagine him saying to a Sloane-sounding Tory, “I know you only went to a grammar school and that they didn’t teach you any manners there, but . . . ”

Both a bully and a snob, you see.

A coda to the Tory story: When he made Cameron sit down, and Cameron said, “I haven’t finished yet!” there was a full 10 seconds of Tory backbench cheering. A wealth of mutinous anger was released by Cameron’s riposte, showing the underlying animosity is still there.

It is still possible there will be a cry against him, when the House resumes after the next election. That’s the audacity of hope.

At the end of the session, the Speaker made a statement. The Clerk of the House is resigning. The man with the great George V beard and sparkling, rather dangerous eyes.

“He can’t stand being screamed at by Bercow any more,” said those who know about these things.

Robert Rogers has been a great driving force behind the modernisation of the House of Commons, and has had some great victories on its behalf. It was his paper that Bercow implemented for livening the place up with Urgent Questions and SO24s. But in manner, education, dress, deportment, he is everything that Bercow fears, resents, admires, longs for, and can never have.




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