We had a crafty little Urgent Question from Chuka Umunna yesterday. The languid old Etonian – well, the nearest Labour has to an old Etonian – had discerned that Vince Cable was going to announce a new policy on remuneration in some photo-favourable setting today. He reeled him in to the House of Commons where MPs rather than journalists could have first crack.
The most interesting crack came from Philip Davies, voice of Shipley, and supporter of the government of which Vince Cable is a minister. "I've heard some drivel in my time," he said, "but I've never heard such drivel from the party opposite as I have from the front bench today." Laughter. Pointing. Tory pleasure. Lib Dem satisfaction.
The Speaker then made one of his more remarkable party political interventions: it was "nice to see that the shyness and reticence previously suffered by the member for Shipley has now been overcome". What he thinks he's doing commenting sarcastically on an in-order debating point remains to be seen.
The question you could infer from Davies' remark was: What's the point of Labour with the Lib Dems in the Cabinet? That's a powerful question, very much to the Coalition's advantage.
The equally self-preserving answer in Vince Cable's demeanour was, "See what the Tories are like in their natural state?"
Chuka has all the advantages of privilege – ease, elegance, confidence and plenty of time. Everything a leader needs, except a decent head of hair. He performs with a steady pulse, a rich, well modulated voice and a pleasant, unforced smile.
And what of Vince's plan to rein in executive pay? It used to be 47 times average pay and now it's 120 times. How's that to be reduced? Transparency, exhortation and workers on the remuneration committees. "My dear Sir/Madam – another glass of champagne? What a journey you've had from the shop floor, have some spa vouchers, a bonus, and the use of the chairman's Bentley."
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