Sketch: Self-aggrandisement befitting Toad of Toad Hall

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When a politician says he's going to answer a question "very directly" as Energy minister John Hayes told Labour's Caroline Flint yesterday, you can bet he won't. And Mr Hayes, trying to explain away David Cameron's impromptu promise to make the power utilities charge their customers the lowest tariffs, didn't disappoint.

Asked if he knew about the announcement in advance, Mr Hayes replied: "Of course we understand what the Prime Minister was considering…" No, in other words. As he was forced much later, grudgingly, to admit.

That much was normal. What wasn't was the way Mr Hayes turned the disarray across Whitehall after the Prime Ministerial promise into an opportunity – not so much for the Government as for him.

Luckily, the actual Secretary of State, Edward Davey, was busy elsewhere. Which gave Mr Hayes the opening for a bout of self-aggrandisement reminiscent of Toad of Toad Hall. And for Toad's beloved motor car, substitute the forthcoming Energy Bill, "a landmark piece of legislation which I will guide through this House".

This has nothing to do with his appearance, of course. Mr Hayes, or Shrek, as he's known affectionately to his colleagues, couldn't be less amphibian. But it had a lot to do with his repeated references to his own qualities. "Alacrity and the defence of the common good lie at the heart of all I do," he confided to MPs. Whatever means the Government uses to reduce tariffs, they would "be effective in a way for which only this Government – and I am bound to say, this minister – are renowned. If I may say so, I have brought fresh energy to this brief."

When the Labour MP Nick Smith congratulated the minister on his "chutzpah" before asking him if his Department had advised No 10 against the very policy Mr Cameron had announced 24 hours earlier, he said (astoundingly given the notoriously bad relations between his Energy colleagues and George Osborne) that it had "a wonderful relationship" with No 10 and the Treasury: "I say, with appropriate modesty, that that relationship has improved still further since my arrival."

Never mind that the regulation he is "getting on" with remains shrouded in obscurity. True, some Tory MPs must have wondered if Mr Hayes was overdoing it. But they had been given a rare treat – a ministerial equivalent of the Last Little Song in the Wind in the Willows: "As the Hero comes/Shout Hoo-ray!/And let each one of the crowd try and shout it very loud/In honour of an animal of whom you're justly proud/For it's Toad's great day!" After that, Toad mended his ways. It remains to be seen if the minister will do likewise.

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