An astonishing 17 members of the Government Whips’ Office rushed in as Mr Osborne started speaking, to mix with Labour backbenchers and give an impression of widespread outrage.
The way they appeared from nowhere it was as though someone had just lifted a manhole cover and so many sewer mice had come scampering into the cockpit of democracy.
I have noted before the rising tendency of these state-paid Whips (they receive ministerial salaries which place them comfortably in the current top-rate tax bracket) to pack the Labour benches when a Tory is speaking. Never has it been so bad or obvious.
Whips traditionally kept silent in the Chamber. Under the leadership of Gordon Brown – the same Gordon Brown who poses as a defender of Parliament and who claims to want to hear the Tories make their case – this custom has been trashed.
The Whips are now rent-a-gob.
Today a twitchy little man called Lucas, one of the Whips’ number, stood by the double doors heckling Mr Osborne like a football hooligan. The place where Mr Lucas was standing was not officially part of the Commons playing-field.A moment later he stepped over the red line on the carpet and strode to a seat.So it can be said legitimately that a servant of the Crown entered the Commons bawling abuse, like a drunk entering a Wild West saloon.
Another Whip, Bob Blizzard (normally meek), was sitting beyond the gangway in a little knot of Labour MPs. Mr Osborne was trying to explain Conservative policy. Labour people kept trying to get him to give way so that they could make interventions – and throw him off track. “Give way!” shouted Mr Blizzard. I watched him. He said it more than five times, top of his voice, smirking as he did so. Five times!
Speaker Martin tried briefly to quell the Government side but he was no match for this wall of noise.
Another Whip, Mark Tami, chuckled as larky neighbours kept jumping up to try to disrupt Mr Osborne.
Ian Austin, yet another high-salaried tribune of Her Majesty’s Government, leaned back, played pocket billiards and drawled ruderies out of one side of his gob.
Nick Brown, Chief Whip, sat near the Chancellor and oozed satisfaction.
Why are taxes paying extra for party whips on either side of the chamber to thwart democracy? Surely whipping, even in its traditional rather than neo-Brownshirt form, is a party matter, and arguably an unhealthy method of suppressing the democratic will of the people. Why should taxpayers fork out extra for this?