There behind the PM were the Home Secretary looking sly, the Chancellor looking cruel and the Chief Whip looking even more pleased with himself than usual. Hard to imagine the Tories’ broadening their appeal with any of them.
Cameron was entirely relaxed, amiable, in charge. He flattened Miliband with his tax avoidance answers (no rise in VAT, he promised, I wonder how he’ll get out of that . . . oh! By resigning just before the rise!). He praised certain opposition members, teased them, laughed along with them. The Commons rather warmed to him and his valedictory ways.
Win or lose, Cameron has created and for five years held together an unlikely coalition and presided over an amazing period of job creation.
Gallery witnesses report Mrs Cameron and their daughter were up in the gallery, and little Nancy was punching the air when her father made some crushing sally. She might have felt superior in mental age to the scenes below. At the phrase “Alex Salmond’s poodle” the House went “Woof woof! Woof woof! Woof woof woof!”
One thing, just a hint, the faintest shadow of something that may be nothing. Cameron does make frequent little verbal slips. Today he claimed there were 20,000 more bureaucrats in the NHS (he meant fewer). He said, “A straight answer deserves a straight question.” There are one or more of these in most PMQs. Do they signify anything? I hope not.
Across the dispatch box, the weird experiment that leads the Labour party emerged from his chemical flask to say the things he’s taken to saying recently. No cost of living crisis. No one nation. No out of touch toffs. Every strategic decision he has made has been made ridiculous. He has mashed and gnashed his way from intellectual absurdity to social handicap to human failure to political nonentity. And he might, he really might be the next prime minister. He’ll have to declare a war immediately, and a big one. Iran, maybe. Sketch writers – certain of us – will need to get out before our transport papers are signed. Argentina’s nice at this time of year.
One creature has come to light. You may have thought Valerie Vaz to be a ditsy, fluffy, faffing sort of character. A sort of brainy Rosie Winterton. Very nice. Very pleasant. Keen to please.
No: the woman is Grendel’s dam.
Charlotte Leslie (chair of the Health committee) revealed that her committee’s new report has been blocked by Labour’s (that is, Valerie’s) steadfast opposition. The report showed that all Ed Miliband’s NHS criticisms are strongly contested or contradicted by industry experts. Publication of that report would stopped up Miliband’s final bolt hole. It would have shot the fox.
Ms Vaz has done her leader yeoman service.
She was also on the Governance committee and forced much watering-down of analysis hostile to the Speaker. Bercow will have her pencilled in for a very significant position after the election, somewhere in his increasingly ambitious administration.
The MPs sat in their places at the end of the session. They’ve got a long and painful road to travel between now and their return. So, the best of British luck to them all.