Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Take that, clever wordplay!

At least Gary Barlow won’t be joining all those musicians (Paul Weller, The Smiths) protesting at having their work invoked by David Cameron.  Nevertheless, the PM’s creaky gag in Prime Minister’s Questions about the singer’s tax issues – “this Government have taken action to say to people, to coin a phrase, ‘We want your money back for good’” – is surely just the kind he would have vetoed on naffness grounds when he was preparing John Major for PMQs.

Labour's Kerry McCarthy had been commendably brief in asking why he was not condemning the antics of the “Tory-supporting” Barlow. In contrast to Sir Roger Gale, who went on so long about a threatened airport in his constituency that even Iain Duncan Smith joined Labour protests by making energetic concertina-ish gestures to urge his fellow Tory to compress it.

But today’s prize for expressive ministerial body language went to Vince Cable. While Tory ministers nodded loyally as Cameron celebrated the arrival of overseas pharmaceutical companies, the Lib Dem Business Secretary was utterly motionless. Maybe Cable had co-incidentally chosen this moment to go into a meditative trance. And maybe not.

Given that Miliband had to brave mocking Tory cheers by welcoming the jobless figures, Cameron failed to draw quite the blood he might have expected. His main charge was that Miliband had not met Pfizer and that the Labour government had removed the option of calling in a merger on public interest grounds. But this point is non-lethal, since Miliband has offered to back the secondary legislation needed to put it back.

During an answer on Nigeria, Cameron graciously mentioned Gordon Brown, who had been early in sounding the alarm on Boko Haram’s hideous kidnap of the schoolgirls.

But he stumbled over the name of the ex-PM’s constituency. Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath is a bit of a mouthful, but could Cameron have also been subconsciously choking on the prospect that it may fall to his much reviled predecessor to save the Union - and conceivably his own premiership?

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