Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Biter Bit

Imagine, if you can, the teeth of Luis Suarez firmly clamped onto his bottom and you should be able to visualise the look on the face of George Osborne at 11.30 this morning.

The features of the Chancellor of the Exchequer found themselves on public display as they turned up, with the rest of him, for their outing as one of the supporting cast at Prime Ministers Questions.

Normally all eyes would be on David Cameron who, of course, is the official booking for the insults and intimidation which mark this part of the parliamentary process.

But, tomorrow we find out if the UK is now in a triple-dip recession - as opposed to the now common-place double-dip - and George already knows the answer. So, would his face give the game away?

The physiognomy of the Chancellor is never an easy task since he usually looks as if he has come straight from the coffin. But, paleness apart, anyone watching him today could be forgiven for popping into Ladbrokes at lunchtime and getting the odds on a recession beginning with the number four.

Mind you, his dark demeanour was more than matched on the opposition benches by his shadow Ed Balls still recovering either from the Marathon or the latest poll saying Ed M should dump him.

And it may have been the indifference adopted by two of the regular thugs which gave PMQs an even greater sense of irrelevance today.

With five weeks to prepare since the last PMQs - holidays and Mrs T's departure got in the way - much was expected of Ed Miliband. His advisors had clearly wound up his spring as tight as they could and he came out of his seat like the Duracell Bunny.

He admonished the PM with a fully extended index finger as he seized on the latest crisis in the health service in A&E departments to mount his attack.

If confirmation were needed the Government had expected the NHS to feature, it came from the positioning of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt who was so far behind the Speaker's chair that he must have had one foot in the street.

(Mr Hunt came to mind earlier when the Today Programme announced they were planning a new slot called Tweet of the Day.)

No such comfort for Dave's first Health Secretary Andrew Lansley who, as Leader of the House, is now within his permanent reach.

As the PM began to bristle, Andrew turned urgently to his neighbour Nick Clegg as if seeking the entrance to the trap door the Deputy PM seems to use when the going gets tough.

In times past, all Ed would have needed to do now was turn up the gas a bit further, wait for Dave to boil over and step over the stretcher on his way out.

But, times have changed and even as Ed got into his stride the PM brought him up short with the reminder Labour had been in power during the worst
NHS scandal at Mid Staffordshire hospital.

Ed borrowed the kettle momentarily to accuse Dave of a "disgraceful slur"
and the NHS was not safe in his hands. But, the Tory benches were clearly happy with all the disgrace they could get and they cheered on Education Secretary Michael Gove, no slouch himself when it comes to slurs, as he happily shouted insults at the opposition.

Home Secretary Theresa May took refuge sending an urgent text. (Though to be fair she was up next to discuss the sequel to her mini-series Expelling Abu Quatada.)

Meanwhile elsewhere, Respect MP George Galloway announced he wanted to see Ed M as prime minister, "the sooner the better."

Not quite Ed's day. With friends like these....