The only MP who doesn’t want Angela Eagle to be the next Jeremy Corbyn is Jeremy Corbyn. He was away today — thank Gawd! — leaving Eagle to take on George Osborne who replaced the PM. Eagle is quality. Her low stature, her kindly, nunnish face and her merry eyes give her a huge advantage in debate because she appears to be without defences. What weapon could this sweet-natured tinky-winky milkmaid possibly wield? A roll of grease paper? A warm scone? A rubber duck? When she strikes, as she does, the blow arrives invisibly. She has a slangy northern tongue that can easily make an Oxbridge toff look like a waste of school fees. Today many Tories were secretly hoping to see their chilly, entitlement-oozing chancellor getting biffed about by Labour’s pocket Boadicea. But Osbo fought her off. Eagle cited the dawn raid on Google by the French tax authorities and she invited the Chancellor to defend his ‘sweetheart deal’ with the tech giant which he had described as ‘good news.’
It is good news, said Osbo evenly. Good news we’re taxing Google at all. Your lot didn’t. He asked if Eagle had raised Google when she was a Treasury minister. She took too long to answer and her excuse, that tech taxes lay outside her remit, was hardly dazzling.
Next up to ruin Osborne’s day, the SNP. Angus Robertson was so brimming with the milk of human kindness that he almost turned to cheese on national television. Robertson is a sanctity robot who scours the earth looking for human tragedies he can turned into box-office gold. And he’s found a hum-dinger. Right now all Scotland is agog at the plight of Lachlan Brain, a cute lad of seven, whose family are about to be transported, 18th century style, to Australia. They haven’t even stolen a sheep. The hapless Brains moved to Scotland in search of a better life, (yes you read that correctly), but the Home Office has decided to clap ‘em in irons and ship ‘em back to the antipodes like a crew of Cockney wrong’uns. The Chancellor responded poorly and promised to get the Home Secretary to dictate quite a long letter about it. And maybe send it to them. In effect he was offering little Lachlan an eviction order autographed by Teresa May as a going away present.
‘That is simply not good enough’, quivered a prim Mr Robertson who beneath the nice grey suits is said to be composed entirely of porridge and disapproval.
Gravely he accused the Chancellor of being ignorant of the Brains and their looming date with the departure lounge. Undoubtedly this was true but Osbo was in a facetious mood. He scolded the SNP for failing to transform Scotland into an international talent-volcano whose sparks of genius will attract whizz-kids from around the world.
The Chancellor gave it a saloon-bar finale and slurred out a string of come-and-have-a-go insults at Labour’s parliamentary sulk-mob. ‘They’re like a party on day release’, he gloated blearily. Jezza may be away plotting to charge his predecessor with war crimes, he said, but he’ll return soon enough. ‘And then it’s four more years hard labour.’ Unsophisticated stuff but it was effective. Even Osbo’s enemies, whose numbers grow daily, concede that this was an impressive half-hour at the punch-bag from the PM’s impatient stand-in.