She got a rock star’s welcome, in her spangling tank top and cutaway jacket. With the best hair of her career Angela Eagle looked a million dollars. US dollars, too, none of that Hong Kong rubbish.
Poor old Corbyn looks like a homeless person in comparison. He’s got a new haircut and it’s the one they give prisoners before they get released.
Labour loved Angela and the Tories joined in, to give her the longest, loudest welcome in recent parliamentary history. Osborne, standing in for Cameron, made his best point, his only really good point, by noting “the warm support” she was receiving from her party.
After that, he fell into every trap she laid for him.
In the theatre of cruelty that is PMQs, the questions are secondary, the answers barely relevant, the crucial thing is to bring out the worst in your opponent. In George Osborne’s case this isn’t as hard as it seems.
Eagle lightly referred to the PM’s seemingly endless European tour (“No wonder we had to buy him his own plane.”) and finished with a nicely-weighted courtesy: “Can the Chancellor tell us, please . . . How’s it all going?”
“WE have a party leader who’s respected abroad!” Osborne slapped down a trump to win the trick, thereby losing it. Lost the House as well, despite some cheers. That wasn’t the game at all.
No, the game was one in which Labour leader Corbyn should have been the loser, if only Osborne would play.
When she itemised Tory backbench comments on Cameron’s EU negotiations, she added a deft little barb to her compliment saying the Chancellor was “well known for cultivating his back bench – and there’s nothing wrong with that.” That barb snagged her own leader too, it went both ways. It needed a response of sympathetic amusement – not of Bourbon contempt (“I’m not sure I’d be quoting backbenchers.”) and a boom-tish crack about getting rid of Momentum.
She got another long laugh glancing at a Tory leadership candidate (“She knows who she is.”) and yet another when she produced a letter “from someone who’s written in. It’s from Donald of Brussels.” Imagine the delight.
But Osborne gave her a little lecture (one that Tony Blair used to give, to better effect) about asking serious questions. About the NHS, or the economy, or something else he was doing well at.
So, it was a victory for Angela although she didn’t “wipe the floor with him” as supporters say.
George hasn’t learnt the previous parliament’s lesson of Miliband and Balls. Cameron allowed himself to be dragged down to their level and ended up red-faced and shouty.
George can only win with an exercise of grace. It ought to be what he’s good at, with his background, breeding, education, fortune.
But I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t make it after all – that’s what Eagle showed us today.