The Sketch: Another good day for Ed. Have the shackles come off?


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The Independent Online

He got away with it, on the whole, there was no animus on the backbenches against the Prime Minister; even David Davis left without asking a question. No Tory really blamed him for his EU-turn on the breakaway group's use of the common institutions like the European Court. The Lord only knows whether that really matters or not.

One thing though, he did keep saying: "It is not a treaty." It provoked increasingly derisive laughter, and not just from the cackling claque on the Labour front bench.

It has a fatal aura, that phrase. It's like "the pound in your pocket" for Harold Wilson, or the "tidying-up exercise" that was the EU Constitution. Every time he said it Ed Miliband did his laughing horse thing, and Ed Balls pursed his lips like a pantomime dame and pointed round the press gallery in a waving or counting sort of way.

Actually, he wasn't pointing at the press, it was higher than that, up towards the windows perhaps. Eventually it was so irritating one of the more curious of us went to ask the Labour spokesman what it meant. "Pigs might fly," he was told. Bill Cash, who deserves some sort of lifetime achievement award from Brussels, told the House his European Scrutiny Committee was preparing a report on "the legality of what is otherwise known as this non-EU treaty." Labour laughter. It was "a slippery slope to a more coercive, less democratic, more federal Europe."

Bernard Jenkin directed his fire at the EU itself, a subset of which had hijacked the EU's institutions without consent. Jack Straw pointed out that "every clause refers to EU institutions, how can it not be a treaty?" The PM replied: "Because it doesn't amend EU law." I wonder how that will play on the Clapham omnibus? I'm betting on a three-point drop in the polls.

It was the second good day for Ed Miliband. First the victory on Stephen Hester's bonus and now a perfectly good canter at the PM over Europe. Have his shackles fallen off? Is my role to be his pretty girlfriend calling after him: "Run, Forrest, run!" as the bullies are left goggling at his speed of his escape? I'm NOT wearing a dress.