Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ed Miliband is more Baldrick than Blackadder

Those banking on a Labour victory at the next general election should note the health warning attached to this column and look away now.

Discussions of the demise of David Cameron have provided much pre-prandial entertainment, particularly on Wednesdays when Prime Ministers Questions are kindly scheduled before lunch. But, reports of his death may well have been exaggerated after a performance this morning that was as polished as his face. You could tell it was going to be serious because everyone was wearing a tie. But, that was clearly not the only lesson learned by the PM during his mini-break in Ireland.

Two days in the company of Vlad the Impaler had also clearly rubbed off leaving him suddenly immune to the taunts of lesser mortals like the leader of the Labour Party. So it was that a newly confident world-statesman-Dave appeared at the Despatch Box with a clutch of complimentary editorials stuffed in his suit pockets.

There seemed plenty of gaps on the Government side of the Chamber as those for whom the PM is forever beyond the pale found better things to do than watch him win. And many on the Labour side must have wished they had followed suit as Ed Miliband delivered a lacklustre performance, and not for the first time recently.

Much is made of the Tory leader's expensive and expansive tan but his Labour equivalent looks as if a fortnight on the sunbed would do him no harm.
He appeared ever so slightly sickly as he rose to replicate the success he has had over the PM in the House of Commons for most of the last two years.

But It was Tory MP's who happily cheered him to his feet leaving Dave equally happy to brush him off. What a turn around from just weeks ago when slight pressure from Ed would have found the PM passing the International Space Station for lunch.

Now that Labour has announced it will be more of the same if they win in 2015, the party leadership seems shorn of direction.

Dave's determination over gay marriage, slight of hand over Europe, and less than bad news on the economy have also wrong-footed the opposition.

Labour is still eight points ahead of the Tories on today's opinion polls latest but the survey also revealed Ed's continuing failure to connect with the public as a potential PM. There is, according to party insiders, a cunning plan, but Ed still seems more Baldrick than Blackadder to many of his MPs.
And as for the public; he is still best known as the man with the funny walk who knifed his brother for the job.

Ed tried to do Dave on the banks and bonuses only for the PM to out-statistic him on the results. Ed had a go at the "part-time Chancellor" (an old Labour in-joke ready for burial) as George helped his BFF out with one of his answers.

That was Dave's cue to bite on Ed B who he reminded MPs had been City Minister when the trouble started.
As Ed B delivered Dave a stare Putin would have been proud of it was Ed M who looked the loser.

By now even Speaker Bercow (not, as you know, on Dave's cocktails and canap├ęs list) was clearly sick of the PM's success and intervened to tell him to lay off crowing about Labour's past.

Tory MP Edward Leigh, best known for holding a series of views somewhat to the right of the original Vlad, raised his red face to its feet and complimented the Prime Minister on just about everything. He sat down to general applause from his side as references were made to his recent knighthood - on the recommendation of the aforementioned and complimented Prime Minister.

As tongues in the Tory side seemed dangerously close to licking the parts other tongues cannot reach, the Speaker turned to his nuclear option and called Denis Skinner.

In times past Denis has been known to reduce Tory MPs to terror as his raspy tones stripped the skin from their bodies.

Indeed, Dave himself has fallen in front of the Beast of Bolsover and Speaker Bercow surely had this in mind as he launched him late into the affray.

But, it was the new Skinner-proof PM who took him on, spending just a second ignoring a question alleging past dodgy dealing over his exes.
Instead he reminded Denis of the recent disclosure of Labour's tax-avoidance advice to donors which netted the Party £700,000.

It was a suitable end to what, for Ed Miiband, was an unsuitable day.