Poor old Michael Gove. For days, he has had to put with Labour MPs berating him for suggesting that people are reduced to relying on food banks because they cannot manage their money properly. Today, Ed Miliband challenged David Cameron at Prime Minster's Questions to defend or disown Gove's comment.
The first time around, the Prime Minister simply changed the subject, Challenged again, he said: “It is this Education Secretary who is delivering the results we need in our education system-free schools, academies and rigour in our schools-and you should be praising him” - and again changed the subject. All in all, it leaves the impression that Cameron does not think it a good idea to cast aspersions on people who go to food banks.
Today also saw the first episode of what promises to be a weekly serial of cringing embarrassment for Michael Gove, assuming that he is embarassible. His wife, Sarah Vine, makes her debut as a columnist for the Daily Mail. That newspaper does not pay its generous fees so that its contributors can write harmless platitudes: what they want from their new signing is some grimly revealing glimpses of life in the Gove household.
In the very week that her husband is accused of insulting people who cannot afford to pay for their own food, Ms Vine reveals that the Goves do their food shopping online, via Ocado. “Normally this is my sole and exclusive domain,” she wrote. “During the holidays, however, my son and husband suddenly developed an interest. Our house was, they claimed, woefully lacking in Doritos, Coca-Cola and Dairylea Dunkers.
”And so one afternoon, while I was out, they seized their chance. The following day, I opened the front door to a tide of contraband comestibles. Giant multi-packs of crisps; fizzy drinks; luxury coleslaw; and insane amount of sugary cereal.
“The fridge was stuffed with repulsive over-packaged processed junk. Meanwhile, the quinoa and chia seeds cowered in the cupboard behind a family pack of value custard creams.”
Gloria's shared friend
The look on Gloria de Piero's face told it all when she was on the receiving end of a stinging put down at Prime Ministers' Questions. Seeing that she was on the order paper to put a question to David Cameron she took to twitter to invite suggestions, and settled for a question about bankers' bonuses. She had not calculated that Cameron's researchers keep a careful watch on twitter.
So, having dealt with her question in a single sentence, the Prime Minister donned his reading glasses - the first time he has done so in the Commons chamber - to read the rest of his answer: “She tweeted this morning-I follow these things very closely, as you know, Mr Speaker-that she had a question to the Prime Minister, and she asked for suggestions. The first suggestion came back: 'How happy are you that Ed Miliband will be the leader of the Labour Party at the next election?' I cannot think why she rejected that advice and took advice from the shadow Chancellor instead.”
In the bear pit of Prime Ministers' Questions, it worked a treat, as the look on de Piero's face told. It was only afterwards that someone spotted that the person Cameron was quoting was not a neutral member of the public, but Cameron's own tennis partner, and de Piero's old colleague from GMTV, Andrew Castle.
Rees-Mogg's idea proves compatible with the 'nanny state'
As if the government's lobbying bill were not bad enough, the Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg wants to make it worse. He is trying to add a clause that would ban any organisation that receives money from the government from spending more than £5,000 on any activity that might affect the outcome of a general election in the 12 months before polling day. He waved away an objection that this could prevent the Church of England from allowing a parish hall to be used for candidates' hustings.
Another potential snag occurred to the SNP's Pete Wishart, who said to the Mogg, in the Commons: “You campaigned with your nanny, in the Glenrothes by-election. If she was in receipt of payment from you, would she have been in contravention of what your amendment suggests?”
My nanny, the Mogg replied, is “a wonderful nanny who campaigns for me and who is now hard at work looking after my four children, which is a great thing for her to be doing. She was a volunteer when I campaigned in Glenrothes and therefore would in no sense have been caught by this clause.”
An unculled-for bit of doorstepping
The Tory MP Ian Liddell-Grainger is back in the Commons after an eventful weekend during which a dead badger was deposited on his doorstep, presumably by opponents of the badger cull. He says the animal was not shot, or run over, but was apparently beaten to death, though he has not asked the police to investigate. And where is the ex-badger now? “On my compost heap,” he says.
Militant returns to haunt Miliband
The newspapers today all reported that Ed Miliband's most uncomfortable moment during his visit to Bournemouth for the TUC conference was when Janice Godrich, President of the PCS civil service union, demanded a 'yes or no' answer to whether he was for or against austerity. Ms Godrich is a member of the Trotskyite Socialist Party, successor to what used to be known as the Militant Tendency. It was in that same hall in Bournemouth that Neil Kinnock launched his campaign to drive Militant members out of the Labour Party. You can say this was Militant's revenge.