There was a poignant, almost-tear jerking moment yesterday during the horror show that was Energy Questions when the former (and sacked) Minister of State Charles Hendry rose to express his –and among Tory MPs increasingly rare – support for wind farms, pointing out, reasonably enough, that even fabulously oil rich countries like Norway, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan were investing in them.
The Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey turned as his former deputy spoke. Their eyes met. You could only imagine the thoughts coursing through Davey's brain. If only they could be colleagues again! What fun it had been when they marched in step together towards a greener future! A little stiffly perhaps, no doubt choking back a surge of emotion, he declared with wistful emphasis: "I should like to pay tribute to the great work that my Honourable Friend did … in a whole range of sectors and thank him for the support he gave me."
And then it was back to confronting the hulking, larger than life, monstrous reality of the Tory replacement for Hendry now sitting beside him on the front bench: John Hayes, the man who had declared war on further wind farms the previous day with a warning that "enough is enough" and had announced with a menacing lack of repentance that he had "the wind in my sails" Which may or may not have been a reference to the fact that David Cameron had also said on Wednesday that there would have to be a "debate" on the issue once current renewable targets had been met.
It was like watching a grisly episode of barely suppressed enmity in Big Brother. Except that you knew that Hayes would not be voted out. And Davey would not get the chance to confide to viewers what he really felt about his rival. On the surface the two men struggled to maintain the civilities during this windyshambles, the outstanding current example of coalition dysfunction. At one point, talking about another issue, environment-friendly carbon capture and storage, Hayes even complimented Davey on the Secretary of State's "usual endeavour and diligence to ensure that we got it right. He personifies that approach in running this department." Unfortunately "patronising" doesn't remotely do justice to the way that came out. For his part Davey was adamant not only about his support for renewable energy but that "I lead" on the policy. Which of course provoked ironic "oooohs" from Tory MPs gleefully convinced that if had to say it, it probably wasn't true. Pressed by Labour's Caroline Flint to say "how closely" the pair were "working together now", Davey said: "I can say that we are working very closely. While they "may occasionally disagree on issues of substance, and I certainly did not agree with his remarks the other day…. I have to say that I really admire his style."
Whatever the meaning of this highly ambiguous endorsement, the Hayes "style" was once again on full display yesterday. No he would not listen to "bourgeois left-wing academics" but to the "will of the people". A politician who never shrinks from talking about himself, he declared: "I am a blue-collar Conservative by origin, by inclination and, as you can see, Mr Speaker, by sartorial choice." But of course, he added cheekily, he would "not make any commitments above my pay grade or outside my remit." Which, as he well knows, is exactly so what so many of his backbench colleagues are willing him to do.