Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Shameless PM fails to persuade MPs he is serious with his dodgy tackle

 

At last, we understand. All that stupid, ill-informed speculation that Michael Gove – or “the former Education Secretary” as David Cameron described him today, the phrase slipping with surprising ease from his lips – had been demoted.

It was simply, as he explained, the need to find “the best candidate for the job” to replace Sir George Young, an “extraordinary politician” of 40 years’ standing who had “served the country so well as Chief Whip” and would soon leave Parliament.

Sir George, who to his permanent credit led the Tory rebellion against the poll tax, does indeed have an impeccable public service career behind him. Even if his last job is normally thought to be more useful to the party than “the country.”

But Cameron, who hardly kept a straight face as he unveiled this crazily improbable back-story, cannot have thought anyone would actually believe that no one else could do the enforcer job in a pre-election year when the chances of a serious parliamentary rebellion are exactly nil. 

Labour’s Pat McFadden asked how Cameron would ensure that Lord Hill (whom no one in Brussels has heard of) got a top European Commission job. For some reason Cameron didn’t answer, as he might have: “Look mate, we’ll do our best, but if you think I was going to risk a by-election by sending an MP there you must be mad.”

And Jack Straw asked “what possessed” the PM to sack Dominic Grieve (who has been a bit of a stickler for the – by Tories – hated European Convention of Human Rights) when it was the Attorney General’s job to “speak legal truth to power”.

This might seem a bit rich given lingering doubts over whether Tony Blair’s Attorney General Lord Goldsmith quite did that over Iraq. But it was a good point, hardly met by Cameron’s answer that when  “someone has served extremely well for four years, there are often times when it is right to…” What? Sack them? No. “…bring on new talent.”

But then shameless was the Prime Ministerial order of the day. Ed Miliband had earlier been doing OK, taunting him about Gove and coming back at yet another fall in unemployment figures, arguing that the recovery meant little to “people, who are working harder for longer for less”.

But then Cameron triumphantly produced a Harriet Harman quote from an LBC phone-in: “I think people on middle incomes should contribute more through their taxes.”

Ecstasy on the Tory benches! Miliband tried bravely to shrug the supposed gaffe off, saying that “this is totally desperate stuff”. But the tide had turned; the Tories noisily willed Cameron on to his show closer: “in this party the leader reshuffles the Cabinet; in his party, the shadow Cabinet desperately wants to reshuffle the leader”.

Except this was the Prime Minister’s Questions’ equivalent of the (very) dodgy tackle. Cameron had accused Labour’s Deputy Leader of revealing “its policy to put up taxes on middle-income people”.

But Harman had done nothing of the sort. All she had done was defend at some length the fact that – now – middle-income earners pay more tax than the poorest. Which since the Coalition always boasts of having taken the lowest earners out of tax is hardly controversial. 

Of course, it worked on the pitch, as professional fouls often do. But if this is a taste of the coming election, heaven help us.

Sport
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
News
The illusionist believes hypnotism helped him to deal with the lack of control he felt growing up
people'It’s not that people react badly to it – they really don't care'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
peopleJack Monroe accuses David Cameron of 'misty-eyed rhetoric'
News
Tana Ramsay gave evidence in a legal action in which her husband, Gordon, is accusing her father, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to “forge” his signature
peopleTana Ramsay said alleged discovery was 'extremely distressing'
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Windsor and Aljaz Skorjanec rehearse their same-sex dance together on Strictly Come Dancing
TV
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Life and Style
fashion'To start singing with Pharrell is not that bad, no?'
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Argyll Scott International: Risk Assurance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Hi All, I'm currently recruiting for t...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible