PMQs SKETCH: Miliband a Bit Intellectually Over-Confident

So, how did that go for your man?

A Labour MP: “Actually good, from where I was sitting. Confident. Picked the right issues. Gave as good as he got.”

“Off the record and seriously?”

“Kicked all over the pitch. And on the NHS. I’d be getting very depressed if I wasn’t already very depressed.”

Ed Miliband put some extra vim in it today, showed his emotions as real people do. Lamented the fate of giant multinational pharma corporation AstraZeneca. Filled his flask of tears and flung it at the PM.

Noble, daring, human.

Plaintive, incoherent, school-age egomaniac.

You know which you prefer, there’s no point in arguing.

Except perhaps on this one point.

He accused the PM of subscribing to “the old idea that the market knows best and doesn’t need rules.”

The idea that markets don’t have rules is nuts. There are cubic tonnes of rulebooks in play, regulating all markets. But for Miliband to imply that his own approach is about “rules” – my old tutor would have said, “Are you using that word in some special sense? Some … private sense?”

Miliband’s popular ventures – price restraints, rent restrictions, a change in the law to knock back Pfizer – they aren’t in any rule book. They’re the opposite of rules. They’re his unpredictable reactions to large public phenomena.

He’s probably a bit over-confident, intellectually, Ed. It takes him out of his circumference, and he thrashes about saying things he may or may not believe, without knowing whether or not he believes them.

It’s the trouble with intellectuals, or at least, the intellectually confident.

Speaker Watch

The appearance of Bad Bercow in the Fabricant clip (here) is most welcome. An old friend.

You can see the moment when he realises Cockerell’s cameras are there and, like a camera shutter falling, Good Bercow appears. “Silly man,” he says to Fabricant, as if indulgently.

A note from a live correspondent in the Gallery:

Cam entered, threw a pleasantry to Bercow and then wandered towards his place. Bercow, eager to return the pleasantry, leaned forward, talking as Dave left his orbit, oblivious to the Speakerly greasings. Bercow, realising he had been made to look silly, sat back in his Chair doing that nodding thing he does when needing to buttress himself.

With Cockerell’s cameras there, Bercow played it very straight, almost completely straight. Why doesn’t he always do it like that?

There are many dark psychological answers to that question and we shouldn’t approach them without rubber gloves.




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Quote of the Day

Philip Hammond uses a trip to Berlin to mock the Foreign Secretary:

“A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest piece. Wise words with some applicability to the Brexit negotiations although I try to discourage talk of “cake” amongst my colleagues.”

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