SKETCH: Waiting Watson and Blissed Out Osborne

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As we endured the latest round of this miserably one-sided fight, my mind turned to the two men sitting to the left of their respective leaders.

It’s a decent bet (the double pays 22/1 with Paddy Power) that George Osborne and Tom Watson will be the next leaders of their parties, and will one day be squaring off against each other on these Wednesday lunchtimes, which would at least be more unpredictable.

Tom was doing his usual thing today, or at least his usual thing since he became Jeremy Corbyn’s deputy: utterly silent, smiling inscrutably, a look of faint amusement and utter detachment on his face.

The only times his lips tightened were when a backbench MP used Corbyn’s gaffe-a-thon with Andrew Marr on Sunday to allow the Prime Minister one of several free and gleeful hits on Trident, secondary picketing, and the Falklands, the latter a comradely gift from the DUP’s Nigel Dodds.

Obviously it wouldn’t do for Tom to smile when David Cameron is shoeing the poor, defenceless old man sitting next to him, but you wonder if these are also the moments when he realises Corbyn cannot go on much longer like this, and ponders being up at the despatch box himself very soon.

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PMQs SKETCH: Corbyn Goes From Angry Chicken to Sick Chicken

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The stare isn’t going so well suddenly. It never worked, it only seemed to, with the Tories falling back in embarrassment. Corbyn read this as bullies being struck with silent wonder at the sight of proper, grown-up politics.

No, it was the reaction of an audience seeing an actor forgetting his lines, or a juggler dropping the ball, or a magician letting the cards fall out of his sleeve.

Tories weren’t able to barrack and wince at the same time.

But they’ve learnt. They have evolved. Today, they overcame their instinctive delicacy and resumed normal service.

And Corbyn went from Angry Chicken to Sick Chicken. Starting to speak, then stopping. Glaring, but getting confused by laughter and not-glaring. Glancing at the Speaker. No help there. Starting to speak again and having to continue through Tories shushing each other.

This chicken dies in the end.

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PMQs SKETCH: Corbyn’s Chicken Death Stare

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People say he’s not doing too badly, and he’s not doing too badly for an old man in a pub, for a clapped-out author wearying a school assembly, for a hero of the previous revolution but one (second class).

He’s obviously pleased with his “death stare”. When Tories barrack him (and they really haven’t started) he stops and stares at them in a way that chickens stop and stare at things. Eventually circumstances change and the chicken goes back to its pecking. The whips have told Tories not to be too nasty to Corbyn so they quieten down. He mistakes correlation for causation.

The poor old piece of poultry, he’s not just second-rate but secondhand, reusing the failed tropes of failed leaders for the past 15 years. “This is Prime Minister’s QUESTIONS”, and I’ve asked the same question five times, and (quoting one sort of Tory) “Why did he say that?”, and (quoting another sort) “Where was she wrong?”

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PMQs SKETCH: Corbyn’s Vogue Levels of Virtue-Signalling

He’s doing it deliberately, isn’t he? The twisted tie and splayed collar and that ghaaaaastly coat and shirt combination. The vanity of being above appearances. The Labour leader is manifesting Vogue levels of virtue-signalling in his dress.

Then all that rubbish about the “very sad news” of having a United Nations committee coming over to investigate the human rights of the disabled. It was “deeply embarrassing”, he said. Cameron classified that as left-wing cack and that proper Britons couldn’t give two flying fingers for a UN committee (I translate). The miserablisation of Labour continues.

Still, Corbyn’s better than Miliband. And better than the next leader (as long that’s Eddie Izzard).

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Like Cockroaches, the Corbynista Swarm Survives

Fat Labour loosened its corsets but couldn’t fill its benches. Many gaps in the ranks. Opposition MPs were wandering Westminster in a daze of incredulous despair and failed to find their way into the chamber.

Many of them will fail to find their way back into the House at the next election.

Their constituencies are being swamped with aliens who don’t share their values or culture and who are swarming over their General Committees to vote in others of their kind. They stick together, those Trots. Boy, do they breed. And like cockroaches, they survive.

They must have been pleased to see the end of Harriet Harman. It was her last stand-in at PMQs. She finishes her career surprisingly as a crypto-Tory. Cameron paid her a handsome tribute (being one of his own) and she missed the opportunity to cry shame! Shame! Shame on you! Her sharpest point was a suggestion he call for a summit of EU leaders to deal with the refugee crisis (as if he could).

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Budget Sketch: Osborne Speaks to the Tory Soul

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The first Tory budget in 18 years prompts a mass Die-In outside parliament.

Inside the Commons it’s a mass Die-In of the Labour party .

Osborne’s hour didn’t just make the political weather it changed the political climate.

Harriet Harman’s response began by lamenting the non-electrification of the Midlands mainline.

Mind you, she’d just been hit by a train.

Benefits. Subsidies. Tax. Pay.

Gordon Brown’s transformative budgets were written in an age of boom and borrowing. Osborne has achieved the same scale of change in an age of austerity.

Every Labour fox was destroyed. Not just shot but run over with a combine harvester.

Never mind deciles and target audiences and the calculus of electoral investment – Osborne has destroyed the opposition. And in an act of retrospective slaughter he destroyed Ed Miliband’s opposition as well.

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PMQs SKETCH: If this is war it’s extremely polite

We’re just waiting, aren’t we? Just starting the second trimester. The labour for Labour is months away but Harriet is very sensibly taking things easy. In the autumn, she’s hoping for the great cry, “It’s a girl!” Pessimists in the centre are expecting, “It’s a boy!” But realists anticipate a great rush of wind and the announcement, “Sorry everyone. Phantom pregnancy. Back to the mattresses and start again.”

In the interim, Harriet seems to have lost the will even to “stick it to the Tories.” Her first question asked him how he could stick it to the French. Tempting question for an English prime minister. He stuck it to the Italians instead. Her second question asked him if “he could say a bit more about strengthening security,” and he said there was “no point in pointing the finger of blame.” If this is war it’s extremely polite. It’s the other sort of civil war.

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A Glimpse Into the Sort of PMQs Bercow is Trying to Make the Norm

So, there’s a prime minister in waiting. Gallery reports of his sneeriness should be discounted.

True, even when he isn’t sneering, he still wears a sub-cutaneous sneer, an impression of a sneer, some sort of metaphysical sneer plays around him like the smile of Lewis Carroll’s cat. But for us in the television audience, George Osborne was controlled, confident and across all that stuff prime ministers have to pretend to know about.

Deradicalisation, for instance. By a happy chance, his prepared joke about Hilary Benn prefaced his remarks on the teenage suicide bomber who blew himself up. For a jihadist to be remembered in Parliament as an adjunct to an indifferent joke about Labour party Bennites is a very fitting memorial.

The deputy leader of Labour is now the leader and her deputy seems to be this Benn fellow. He produced a series of sensible, dutiful questions which got the Commons talking excitedly (about who was winning what election for which committee chair). It’s a glimpse into the sort of PMQs that Speaker Bercow is trying to make the norm. Nothing will turn people off politics more thoroughly.

It’s still possible to hope Jeremy Corbyn will be up there at the despatch box after the Conferences. Are there 50,000 mental lefties out there? Democratic jihadists who’ll infiltrate the Labour Party and blow it to glory?

Now more than ever we need the audacity of hope.

At any rate – an utterly uneventful afternoon in which Tory spines were stiffened at the prospect of a plausible successor and a Tory government through the 20s.

If this was his audition for First Lord of the Treasury he’ll certainly get a call-back.

PMQ’s SKETCH: Where Was the Eton Gloating Song?

Harriet was always going to use that line about gloating.

The PM is back to his easy, lordly form. He deflected hostile questions (“It’s an important point she raises.”) He congratulated opposition MPs. He made a pretty decent […]

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PMQs SKETCH: New Parliament, Old PMQs

With the arrival of 182 new MPs, two new TV camera angles and a new hierarchy for old party rivals, you might have been forgiven for hoping that the first Prime Minister’s Questions of the new Parliament would herald a […]

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PM Surveys Muddy Waters as Dragons Lurk

Dave’s visit to Chester Zoo was a sketchwriters’ wet dream.

The only animals were dragons behind his shoulder (on the left in the picture above).

The PM stared pensively into muddy waters.

Exclusive to all newspaper sketchwriters tomorrow…[…]

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What Vengeance Bercow Will Deliver

Speaking for the sore losers – that was the most partisan act of chairmanship ever seen in the Commons.

Through the Urgent Question before and the debate itself, Bercow called almost no one who would speak in favour of the […]

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