Wednesday, March 06, 2013

When it comes to men, thank God women have no taste

"The great thing about women old boy is, when it comes to men, thank god they've got no taste."

This observation, from political journalist Walter Terry, came to mind as the camera lingered briefly on that oddest of odd couples Theresa May and Phillip Hammond.

Only a few hours earlier they had been merely Home Secretary and Defence equivalent,colleagues certainly, even friends perhaps, in the coalition of the unwilling otherwise known as David Cameron's cabinet.

But, that was before they were unceremoniously outed this morning by none other than the Daily Telegraph as the couple after his job.

Weekend mutterings by both in the aftermath of the Eastleigh by-election debacle were offered in evidence of the dastardly deed so you could only imagine the sighs of sheer pleasure as MPs gathered at Prime Ministers Questions for the weekly reading of the runes. Because there in front of them snuggled up together, cheek to cheek on the front bench, sat the apparently shameless couple.

According to the kiss-and-tellers, the plan would be for Theresa, who has made a fair fist at hanging and flogging in Tory eyes, to be the new Dave.
Meanwhile Phil, who has felt emboldened enough to defend "our boys" against further cuts in the defence budget, would be the new George.

If further evidence were needed of the new dream team observers pointed out that they seemed to have discussed their wardrobe in advance of PMQs both choosing black with a dash of revolutionary red. In Theresa's case a blouse and for Phil, a tie.

Pure gossip or not, it was enough for the old George, present incumbent of the number two spot in the Government, to plonk himself firmly by the side of his would-be replacement producing the requisite sickly grin on Phil's face.

With his enemies now settled as comfortably as possible around him the Prime Minister was able to face his official opposition for his regular half hour of hectoring.

He at least, had the confidence of knowing that Ed Miliband would not be raising the spectre of Eastleigh since Labour's performance has already been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Indeed, the Labour leader seemed keen to talk about an East London friend of his: John, who earns a million pounds a year.

Tory MPs quietened at this first-time admission that Ed was one of them before the Labour leader admitted he was fibbing and this was a political device to embarrass the government over banker's bonuses.

George - the present one - who had gone to Europe yesterday to persuade them not to cap bonuses and been voted down 26 to one, joined Phil in a shoe-staring contest as Dave floundered through a reply.

The PM trotted out a newly-learned line naming the two Eds opposite as "croupiers in the casino as it went bust" which seemed to shock Ed M as clearly he had never been in such an establishment.

He also belatedly introduced the newly minted, "spare room subsidy", as the Tory replacement for the "bedroom tax" which Labour has successfully used to deflect attention from where they stand on benefit cuts.

Both these phrases were road-tested during PMQs and readers should prepare for their regular use in the coming months.

With members on both sides now happily worked up Speaker Bercow made his usual ignored call for calm and Ed rose to the occasion by saying he looked forward to facing Theresa May across the Despatch Box.

As Dave forced a grin out of a grimace, the Home Secretary became an instant advert for botox as she froze every feature.

Tory MPs, sitting behind, could only see the backs of the heads of their heir apparents but many seemed as pleased as Labour at the embarrassment being handed out to the man they blame for their present predicament. (Latesr opinion poll today: Labour 42%, Conservatives 29%).

And with that no doubt in mind the Speaker let Lib Dem MP Bob Russell, who appeared to be dressed as a chicken, mention the dreaded word Eastleigh.

Nick Clegg, so long an island of indifference at PMQs, perked up with all the insouciance of a party leader who for this week at least doesn't have to worry about his job - though from the looks behind him he should keep checking under his car.

As PMQs rattled to its end eyes turned towards Phil and Theresa, the bland and the once-blonde, forming the new power relationship.

It was still hard to work out whether they had deliberately sat down together or been abandoned to their fate by more cautious cabinet colleagues.

Theresa May is said to have been inviting Tory back-benchers in recent weeks for tea and toasties after PMQs.
If it was on today, the look on George's face said, names will be taken.