Simon Carr: A Tory love-in leaves wallflower Ed without a dance partner

Sketch: The funereal Peter Bone declared himself the "happiest backbencher" even though hehadn't received a Christmas card from the PM.
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The Independent Online

Here's a candidate for quote of the year. The British Prime Minister returned from a European summit to report his experience to the House of Commons. Kevin Brennan noted the new ease with which he was handling the European administrative language.

"There is," the PM said ruefully, "a lot of junk you've got to mug up on." A lot of what you have to do what with?

Imagine Gordon Brown saying that, in the awesome seriousness of high office. Imagine Ed Miliband saying it. He wouldn't dare for fear of being called lightweight. And what must they be thinking in those Euro-buildings? They must be reaching for their dictionaries wondering if Britain was hinting at an Anglo-Chinese naval agreement about tea (drunk from said mugs and shipped in heretoforementioned junks).

He was in a demotic mood; the sceptics had stayed away, and those who'd come were in a strikingly good mood, alas for the leader of the Opposition. Ed Miliband said that with all his broken promises it was no wonder Tory backbenchers were unhappy with their leader. Response: Not as unhappy as Ed's were with him. "A bit of seasonal advice – keep the receipt in case you want to swap your purchase later."

Tories went on to preface their questions with, "As a happy backbencher." The funereal Peter Bone declared himself the "happiest backbencher" even though he hadn't received a Christmas card from the PM. Labour backbenchers suddenly wanted a card as well. "Come and join the Love Train," Cameron offered, laughingly. The party was in full swing but Poor Ed was left by the wall with no one to dance with.

Ed also charged the Tory leader with grandstanding. Response: "Only last year they were saying we were completely isolated in Europe. Now we lead a coalition of the largest countries in Europe, we're grandstanding."

Nor did Ed make progress on the budget increase. Cameron had said that Europe usually split the difference. The Commission argued for 2.9 per cent rise, the EU Parliament wanted 6 per cent. Normal practice would have them settling on 4.5 per cent, but in this case they hadn't.

Ed made the clever case that Cameron wanted a zero per cent rise, the Parliament wanted a 6 per cent rise, and the end result had precisely split the difference.

Cameron gave the figures from last year showing how Labour had agreed to split the difference exactly and that Tony Blair had given away "Mrs Thatcher's rebate for nothing in return". Junk that Ed might have to mug up on.