Parliament: The Sketch: Foxes lament official failure to make hen-houses secure

AS REBELLIONS go, it was a very courteous affair. Iain Duncan Smith, speaking to the guillotine motion that began proceedings (and which allowed Tories to indulge in the perverse satisfaction of taking up time complaining that they weren't being given enough time) had popped across the Channel to bring back an analogy for the skulduggery of the Government.

Blair was Louis XIV, he suggested, a paragon of centralised state power, and Gordon Brown his sinister cardinal, gliding through the corridors of the House to corrupt honourable members. Alistair Darling began as the Man in the Iron Mask (the analogy appeared to be getting a bit out of hand by this time) but Mr Duncan Smith ended by encouraging him to emulate Sidney Carton, from A Tale of Two Cities. This was the moment, he implied, for the ancient regime (aka Labour Nouveau) to be overthrown by the downtrodden populace.

In a speech of unctuous fidelity, Gerald Kaufman rose to rally the mob to the royalist cause - revolt would do them no good, he said, only comfort the enemies of their friend and protector, King Tony. But one had to wonder why he felt the need at all. If the storming of the Bastille had been conducted along these lines it would have been a curious affair indeed - the rioters advancing in orderly fashion on the prison governor's lodgings and informing him that they were frightfully sorry but there might be some noise in the next few hours; there was nothing personal about it, and if he could just open the gate a pinch they would all avoid a lot of unpleasantness.

But the rebels also had some solid cobblestones to throw. Dr Roger Berry's speech in favour of the dissenting amendment quietly and courteously took out several of the ministerial arguments in favour of changing the rules on incapacity benefit. Spending wasn't rising, he pointed out, it was actually falling - so long-term savings couldn't be the reason. And nor could existing fraud either, since current recipients wouldn't be affected by the changes. "Perhaps the Tories didn't cut enough," he said, provoking a murmur of "shame" from a colleague. "Yes, it is a shame," he said quietly, deflecting the rebuke to his own front bench.

Frank Field made an effective speech, too, emphasising the moral consistency of Labour's opposition to means-testing, but also taking pains to illuminate the extraordinary mass conversion of the Tories to the cause of the dispossessed. There was indeed something eerie about the spectacle of the opposition benches. For Mr Field it brought to mind the Moonies but I felt it was more like watching a succession of foxes angrily denouncing the lack of security around the hen-house, speeches that were only slightly undermined by the fact that the vehemence of their indignation would occasionally dislodge a bloodstained feather from their chops. The wiser of them knew that the more time they left for Labour dissenters the better.

They will have enjoyed Audrey Wise's intervention, the first touch of fire. When she and her colleagues had fought for redistribution, she said scathingly, we didn't mean redistribution "from some disabled people to other disabled people". But she also inadvertently cheered the front bench, after invoking the historic precedent of 1976, when rebellious backbenchers forced Jim Callaghan to keep a promise about child benefit. Three years later candidates were able to go into the election with their heads held high, she said thrillingly. "And you lost!" shouted the front bench as one. That they said "you" and not "we" was telling. The debate ended with yet more heartfelt courtesies from back and front benches, but the vote itself suggested there was still plenty of clear water between "them" and "us".

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform