Simon Carr:

The Sketch: A new coalition in the making


Cute exchange between an easy, patrician Chuka Umunna and the questing turtle that the Business Secretary has become. It's old and new. Youth and age. Nouvelle Labour and Zimmer Socialism.

Chuka has relaxed into office and is allowing an attractive urbanity to show through. He smiles, he teases, he releases a fountain of leaderly qualities into the chamber. Vince has been so hammered by events he's looking a bit shaky, let's not say doddery. It isn't clear any more that he could "press the nuclear button" hard enough to make it go off.

Chuka referred to the Minister's recently leaked letter about how useless the Coalition in general and his own department, in particular, were.

"There were some choice words about us in it," Chuka said, amused. It's worth rolling that around a bit. I'm not sure any other Labour MP would use such an amiable expression, accepting the Business Secretary's position but neutralising it through sheer charm.

He went on to mention Vince's characterisation of the Coalition's growth strategy as "piecemeal". And the PM's reaction? He invited the Minister to expand on his remarks saying, "It would be grossly unfair to let the Prime Minister have the last word on it."

In that vignette we might discern the sinews of our next top parliamentarian. If Yvette Cooper wants to lead the party, she had better get a move on – after the next election it'll be too late.

Vince replied that the letter had been leaked by another department to the Labour party. Then: "If he [Chuka] ever finds himself out of a job, he should apply to be a press officer in my department."

What? To make even easier the flow of information from BIS to the Labour front bench?

If they're looking a little symbiotic now, there are those who can see them as prime minister and deputy in the next coalition.

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