The surge in good economic news and the collapse of the Socialist experiment in France has added two new characters to the opposition front bench.
A surly, sullen but above all silent Ed Balls – and a wounded fawn of a Labour leader.
They still do the look they’ve always done – cocked heads looking at the PM as if to say, “What a curious person saying such peculiar things. I wonder if he knows what he thinks he’s saying sounds like?” At school it was called “dumb insolence”. It amused us but works no better now than it did then.
Cameron was back as the Master of the House thanking three or four Labour Members for their suggestions, commending opponents, smiling, taking things seriously, not rising to the bait.
Doe-eyed Ed stood up, a little saddened by the prolonged Tory cheers, not angry but disappointed. His plan for a responsible House of Commons has gone the same way as a responsible capitalism – and for the same reason. You can’t suppress the animal spirits of the people (and nor should you try, according to Keynes).
He said RBS was paying bonuses of 100 per cent of salary and that it was all wrong, wrong, wrong what with the cost of living crisis.
Cameron gave a complete parliamentary answer saying that overall pay at the bank has not and would not rise.
However incomplete the answer might have been outside the chamber, inside it Labour was crushed. “He rises with all the moral authority of Reverend Flowers,” was one of Cameron’s laughing jibes.
The cost of living crisis featured very lightly, now that inflation is down and real wages are rising. Too far too fast wasn’t mentioned at all, except by Cameron. And Ed Balls’ contribution was limited to very small head shaking. It was a complete rout.
“What’s the point of Plan B when Plan A is working so well?” Angie Bray asked to great shouts. And as for Andrew Bridgen, he at last scored in the House quoting Miliband’s admiration of Hollande. “What Hollande is doing in France,” (chortling) “I want to do in Britain!”
That created a variety of mental images, none to Ed Miliband’s credit, and one or two of the images needed wiping immediately.
What a pair of poppets. They’re supposed to be such thoughtful, clever, canny, highly-educated, well qualified strategists.
They lived through boom and lived through bust, and there on the point of great change, at the crux of the opportunity they made the wrong calls on everything.
And where they may have had a point their policies were of the playground.
PS: Speaker-pathologists will note that his handling of the House has changed very markedly. His manner is crisp and professional, he is calling his old enemies, he is even-handed.
Compared with the malevolent, partisan, narcissistic pre-Christmas Bercow, this Bercow is almost respectable. The lesson? When you are being persecuted by a nasty little bully, bully him back. Bercow has shown us the truth: bullying works.