Christmas is here. And Ed Miliband’s script writers have already got their present. The sack. Really, he seems to have let them go. At PMQs he was reading out insults that pre-date Nicholas Parsons. Out of touch, complacent, the plaything of millionaires.
Cameron can fight off such jibes his sleep. Tory backbenchers asked questions full of happy economic tidings. Conservative constituencies are alive with commercial euphoria. New investment, new apprentices, new customers. It’s all thanks to this wise and decisive government. Cameron duly lapped up the credit.
Peter Lilley revealed his personal remedy for the proposed pay hike for MPs. ‘Re-table the Boundaries Commission report!’ he advised. In other words fewer MPs with higher salaries. This was a stroke of genius from the white-jowled Thatcherite storm-trooper. Lilley added that Nick Clegg wouldn’t dare to oppose this measure for fear of being called a hypocrite. ‘Tempting,’ said Cameron. One snag: Clegg gets more comfortable with the Iscariot suffix as each day passes.
Labour’s backbenchers were eager to champion the marginalised and the sorrowful.
Stella Creasy brought up Cameron’s unpopularity with female voters. She ascribed it to his failure to support a possible ban on Page 3. He condones topless modelling, she suggested, ‘because at least it provides jobs for the girls.’
Was that damaging? Definitely. At least on paper. But Creasy’s wording was too ingenious and elaborate. Feminists will toast her indignation but it won’t make them hate Dave one jot more than they hate him already. Nice try. But a waste.
Then came a seasonal intervention from Frank Roy. He may be overweight, under-dressed and a little short of brain-power but what shines forth is the quality of his spirit. Mr Roy’s character produces vibrations wherever he goes. And those vibrations are deeply forlorn.
Here is a man so spectacularly gloomy that he should invite the bureaucrats in Brussels to adopt him as the new European unit of misery: the Roy. As he spoke, the sound of his rasping whisper filled the chamber with several kilo-Roys of gloom. He told everyone that Christmas is already causing him concern. He thinks it may not be wretched enough. Unhappy parents across this failed-state of ours, he said, have already abandoned any hope of cheering up their tear-stricken toddlers on Christmas morn. ‘Why?’ he finished plaintively. That sad syllable alone added a further a mega-Roy of misery to the atmosphere. Dave told him to sod off. Or rather he blamed Labour for wrapping the economy round a tree and leaving the Tories to put it back on the road.
Cameron’s feud with Balls entered fresh territory today. For years, Balls has been able to play Cameron like a yo-ho. Boing! If Balls tweaks his wrist, Cameron goes through the roof. But the magic is deserting him. Cameron made an early jibe about Balls’s ranting response to the Autumn Statement. He called Labour’s high command, ‘Red Ed and Redder Ed.’
Later, while answering a backbencher, Cameron turned to the gesticulating Balls.
‘Extraordinary. He’s at it again. He’s heckling again.’ He could dish it out, said Cameron, but he couldn’t take it. Balls meanwhile was extending his repertoire of manual semantics with a new gesture. His fist, with one digit extended, was being repeatedly thrust towards the bowels of the earth. ‘Going down?’ hazarded Cameron. ‘His career’s going down.’ Ed Balls shook his head. His lips were primly pursed together but he didn’t look convinced.
Cameron and Balls are like two dogs tied up outside Tesco whose straining leashes bring them within an inch of each other’s noses. Long may the snarling continue.Tags: David Cameron, Page 3, PMQs, Stella Creasy, UK politics