It's the way you tell 'em, as Ed Miliband found out when his perfectly good joke bombed

Ed Miliband had a well scripted joke to use at Prime Minister's Questions this week. It went: "Our sympathy is with the Deputy Prime Minister. His partner goes on a business trip and he is waiting by the phone, but he hears nothing until a rambling phone call at 4am confessing to a terrible mistake."

It should have had them rolling in the aisles, but it bombed. His audience could not even hear it properly because Tory MPs were still laughing so raucously at the way David Cameron had turned his severely tested partnership with Nick Clegg into a one-liner: "It's not that bad – it's not like we're brothers."

The Miliband joke, which may have been a last contribution from his gag writer Ayesha Hazarika, who is moving to work for Harriet Harman, looks better on paper, but Miliband lacks that gift that Cameron has of being able to deliver a rehearsed joke as if he has just thought of it.

Almost all front rank politicians feel the need to tell jokes, though very few are actually any good at it. Through history, nearly all the best have been sharp put downs, such as the description of Clement Attlee, attributed to Winston Churchill, as "a modest man with much to be modest about", or Denis Healey's remark that being attacked by the dogged Sir Geoffrey Howe was like "being savaged by a dead sheep".

One of the funniest extended routines ever performed by a professional politician was when Margaret Thatcher ridiculed the Liberal Democrats in a routine based on a Monty Python sketch. What was so funny was that Mrs Thatcher had no idea what the joke was, and delivered it like a strident political statement.

Laboured jokes? The leader's best lines

* "Dinner ladies earn less in a week than Osborne spends on his ski holiday," was Miliband's jibe on the day of public sector strikes, which baffled many as a statement of the obvious. It is presumed he meant to say year.

* After allegations about George Osborne's youthful encounters with a dominatrix surfaced in the press, Miliband compared his (alleged) experiences to his economic obstinacy: "The Chancellor has lashed himself to the mast...not for the first time, perhaps."

* Perhaps Ed's poorest one-liner was in response to suggestions that he had an operation on his nose to change the nasal tone of his voice: "My nose job July 27. They called it 'Ed Nose Day'."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • 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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living