Wednesday, December 3, 2014

PMQs SKETCH: Maso-sadism

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Our prime minister introduced this thrilling concept into PMQs just now, an entirely new sub-genre of the mainstream practice. What an exquisitely-tuned sensibility Eton produces in these matters.

He had been mocking Ed Balls, quoting his plan to be “tough on the deficit and tough on the causes of the deficit.” And as he was one of the main causes of the deficit, this was an example of “maso-sadism.”

Exactly how it differs from sado-masochism remained a tantalising mystery.

Labour erupted into a furious communion with itself and the House. What did he mean? What was this fascinating variation that only the elite have access to?

The Speaker attempted to calm his constituency. “We all know what he meant,” he said in a world-weary way. But it was unlikely he did know. Maso-sadism is strictly a Pop, P2, Order of the Garter sort of secret from which the Speaker will always be excluded (hence his loathing).

Perhaps realising he had given away more than he should, Cameron corrected himself. (That’s level one in M-S.) He laughed it off. He meant ordinary masochism. “I always said he could dish it put but he couldn’t take it. But I think he likes to take it as well.”

(more…)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

PMQs SKETCH: E.D. Phone Home!

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Good old Brooks Newmark, he hath done the sketch some service.

On a question about the inner workings of the penile system and afflictions of the testicles there he was, lounging behind the questioner in his paisley-coloured dreamland. He’s certainly in touch. He definitely gets it.

Unlike – oh how very unlike – our friend who speaks for the Labour Party on these occasions.

Ed Miliband brought his finger to the fore. Long and odd, as you’d expect in an alien. It’s an open secret, isn’t it? The Labour leader is not of this world. He belongs in the basket of a little boy’s bicycle. We’re all waiting – I mean literally everyone is waiting – for the Miliband  fingertip to light up and for him to croak, “Home!” Oh, the relief in his party on that joyful day.

For his weekly turn, Ed let out six fluent streams of static, six bursts of passionate telemetry. It’s a language Geiger counters understand well.

Decoded, it appears he wants us to believe that the NHS in crisis. Which it may very well be.  Cameron’s complete answer consists of: 1) Labour wanted to cut its funding. And 2) The country needs to make the money before it can be spent on health.

That is the only answer necessary and one he gives every week. For all his other-worldly intelligence, Miliband hasn’t found a way round or through it.

(more…)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Speaker Watch: Lansley Wounds Bercow

The wheels of a Parliament grind slow but they grind fine.

Andrew Lansley’s evidence to the Governance committee this week is very damaging to John Bercow’s prospects.

The committee was set up to look at the Speaker’s (disastrous) handling of the appointment of chief Clerk of the Commons. As Guido pointed out early in the year, it was clear that Bercow was operating a policy of Diminish and Rule to increase his suffocating grip on Commons life.

Abolishing, or massively diminishing, the office of Clerk would give him unrestrained access to the powers and budgets of department heads.

Andrew Lansley confirmed in evidence that Bercow ran the recruitment as if it was his own personal process (in our view, to appoint the one person he had in mind from the outset).

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

PMQs SKETCH: Ed the Unready
Uncounselled, Ill-Advised, a Leader Surrounded by Fools

Up he stood with one prepared earlier by nitwits unknown.

Faced with prolonged Tory cheers, the ones he gets every week, he said, “Let’s see if they’re still cheering on Friday!” (Laughter)

The Rochester by-election is set to give the Tories a rollicking. That much we have known for a fortnight, all through Ed’s leadership crisis.

But it’s usually a mistake to chaff the prime minister. “I make one prediction,” he said in his easy, Eton house-room way, “the people behind me will still be cheering HIM on Friday.”

True.

The news on Friday morning may be shocking enough to revive Labour panic. What happens if they poll 15 per cent? Tory failure has been priced in – has Labour melt-away? How will the 100-odd Labour MPs feel when their vulnerability is dramatised for them? When they look ahead to the loss of their precious seat?

Because it’s all about Ed. Presidential Ed. The teeth of the campaign. The big brain behind it. The single greatest weakness of the party is given the greatest prominence. Who thought that was a good idea?

Ed!

It isn’t a confection of the right wing press: voters look at Ed and shudder.

(more…)

Monday, November 10, 2014

SKETCH: Out of Touch Ed Canters Into the Valley of Death

Ed listening is a sight for sore eyes. He crouches slightly and goes very still, pointing his face at the questioner, concentrating his whole being in their direction. He may quiver slightly, like a greyhound.

It’s what people who don’t listen do to show they’re listening.

He speaks human too. “I want some gender balance,” he said, taking questions. “There’s a lady over there.”

She didn’t say, “How dare you talk to me like that!” But how did he dare?

“I want some ethnic balance, you sir with the headgear, and the um, the you know,” (Rubs his hands in a circular motion over his cheeks). He knows you can’t do that, at least.

He didn’t actively empathise with anyone, God knows how he would have done that and who would have cleaned up afterwards.

A journalist got hold of a microphone and asked if Ed would accept there was a crisis of confidence in his leadership.

He said, “My answer is no.”

Straightforward denial of reality. Very important quality in a leader. If you can describe Ed as a leader.

He said they were going to “change the way the economy works.”

Big job, that.

(more…)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

PMQs SKETCH: How Have Labour Got Themselves Here?

The weekly pleasure of Ed Miliband in action.

He’s like an eight year old boy unused to fighting running into a fight. Wild face, arms windmilling, making strange noises, not punching but slapping like a girl.

He ran at Cameron six times. Six times Cameron put a hand on the lad’s forehead and watched the arms flail, the hands flap, the teeth dance in his mouth.

It was Europe. Would Cameron repeat what he said two years ago and say he’d campaign to stay in the EU?

A week is a long time in politics. Two years is time for an ice age and its inter-glacial period. Nonetheless, Ed insisted Cameron repeat his ancient undertakings.

Cameron had a perfectly serviceable  – if swervy – answer.

He wanted to stay in a reformed EU. That was the plan.

There really was nothing to see there. Did Miliband move on to the Treasury shambles following the EU’s £1.7 billion demand? Or to a forensic dissection of Cameron’s impossible task?

No, Miliband kept coming back to Cameron’s personal position on the forthcoming campaign, and kept getting the serviceable answer. His rhetorical climax was: “He’s the Don’t Know prime minister.”

At that point, twenty or thirty female Labour MPs could have posed for Munch. A mass Scream.

scream

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

PMQs SKETCH: “An Absolute Shar”

“An absolute shower,” (pron. “shar “) Cameron called them, the Labour leadership.

Perhaps he thought any more detailed attention would be to kick Miliband when he was down.

You shouldn’t kick your opponent when he is down. When your opponent is down you should gently bind him, place a careful foot on his croaking throat and  dismember him. Harvest his organs. Mummify him and keep him in your cellar. Your friendly smile should never lose its freshness while you work.

“An absolute shar” hasn’t had the effect Cameron was counting on since 1956.

There has never been a more ridiculous duo leading a major party than Ed Balls and Miliband. Their polling is pitiful. Their strategy woeful. They couldn’t be more insulated from their voters than if they were wearing gimp suits, boxing gloves and a This Is What A Feminist Looks Like T-shirt.

They are following in the tradition of Michael Foot’s Labour, “there will be no compromise with the electorate.”

That is no reason for assuming they won’t win the election.

(more…)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Carol Mills “Hit by a Bus” in Senate Finance Hearing

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The famous Carol Mills – John Bercow’s personal candidate for the position of Clerk of the Commons – was up in front of an Australian Senate finance committee this week.

An “excruciating process” (in the words of one present) extracted a number of admissions and confessions that undermine her reputation in the Commons as a “world-class administrator”.

· * Her department hasn’t had a Chief Financial Officer for 12 months.

· * While she chairs the Security management Board – a separate security panel was set up without her knowledge.

· * The threat level may have been fiddled to help justify a $400,000 cut in the security budget.

· * While cuts were being made and improvements to parliamentary facilities were being denied – she spent $3m on refitting her office (nearly twice the original estimate).

· * A contract for $30,000 to take 10 photographs was given to a friend and neighbour of hers from the same Sydney street.

(more…)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

PMQs SKETCH: Cameron Rubs Salt Into Bercow’s Wounds

The only really enjoyable part of PMQs came right at the end in a question on immigration, and time running out. The PM broke off his answer with an abrupt change of subject to congratulate ex-Chief Clerk Sir Robert Rogers on his peerage.

It had been an indirect attack on the Speaker to make the hated Rogers a peer, now a slightly less indirect way of rubbing salt into the open wound that sits in the Speaker’s chair.

The House loved it. And not just Tories. Witnesses inside the Chamber said the cheering came from both sides of the House and went on for a parliamentary eternity (about 15 seconds).

The Speaker busied himself in conversation with his secretary. He wasn’t taking on that mob.

Feelings about the Speaker are like a tsunami wave travelling a long distance. Out at sea the wave looks like any other. Only when the seabed rises approaching land does the wave rise and reveal itself.

That was one moment of the wave passing an island. Up it reared.

In every second of every cheer the House was saying, “We know what you’re like. You bullied, browbeat, berated, swore at a decent man until he couldn’t take it any more and quit the job that meant the world to him. You have revealed yourself. And we won’t forget it.”

The occasion passes, the wave resumes its normal height, but it’s still traveling with undiminished power .

(more…)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

SPEAKER WATCH: A New Managerial Mess of Bercow’s Making

We’ve definitely reached peak Bercow. The poor fellow is running out in front of our eyes.

The ennoblement of Robert Rogers on Cameron’s recommendation is a marvellously indirect attack, recognised by everyone in the Commons. We all now know Rogers was hounded from office by the Speaker.

Less well known – the Speaker suffered a sharp set-back last week when the House of Commons Commission (which he chairs) voted to appoint hated, old Etonian David Natzler as temporary Chief Clerk.

Bercow voted against this – and lost.

Half the Commission is appointed by Bercow himself – his own people are starting to turn away from him.

But the position of chief executive is still vacant, as is the chair of the management board. Whom other top staff report to is unclear. It’s a managerial mess and entirely of the Speaker’s making.

Natzler is moving into the Clerk’s palatial office, and everyone underneath him has moved up as well.

Shifting them all back would cause a palace revolt.

This as much as anything makes Carol Mills’ appointment less likely than ever.


Seen Elsewhere

Rise of Angela Merkel | New Yorker
May SpAd Removed From Candidates List | ConHome
Clodagh’s Law | Press Gazette
Whitehall Bosses Ban Christmas | Sun
Meanwhile, in Russia… | Media Guido
Christmas TV Tips | Laura Perrins
Labour Marginal Fright | Lord Ashcroft
Osborne’ Real Deficit Reduction Record | ConHome
Blameronism | Peter Oborne
Everyone Can Lose | Staggers
Splintering of the Left | Tim Montgomerie


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