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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor