The Sketch: Blair's disease starts with a smile and ends with a war

  • @SimonSketch

By the time Cameron said how keen he was on a "respect agenda" the heir to Blair style had become a little obtrusive. That inheritance is not without its curse, remember. Blair now has the face he deserves and God knows few of us want one of them. Cameron must be hoping to escape the full syphilitic effect of his predecessor's hereditary gift.

He ought at least to be careful about adopting Blair's manner, in case le style becomes l'homme.

So when he told us about his respect agenda ("we believe in respect"), some of us went, "Hmm." Then the courteous acknowledgement of opponents, the congratulations to Caroline Lucas ("an incredible achievement for her party"). It was possible to worry. Then those amiably ironic remarks ("I'm well aware the Conservative party didn't sweep Scotland, thanks for reminding me"). Lord, he's one step away from invading a Third World dictatorship and bombing it back into the Stone Age.

Other hints of this: a slightly darker shade peeping through when he replied to George Howarth's Daily Mail point ("One consequence of a prison sentence is the prisoner is unavailable to offend"). Cameron observed: "If they want to put themselves on that side of the argument, I think that is making a big mistake." That was a Blair theme and projects a technical, political purpose, not a proud submission to the national interest. He had more than enough moral or ethical points to add (23 per cent of prisoners had been in care, etc), he wants to be wary of the "side of the argument" argument.

And finally, his despatch of Harriet recalled the way Blair dealt with Iain Duncan Doodah. She went to run the "same old Tories" line, hoping to reach "unemployment is a price worth paying" via some "on your bike" sallies. She quoted a secret Treasury document saying 1.3m jobs would be lost – but his complete reply was, "But 2.5m jobs will be created."

Tony Baldry from his own side advised him "to ignore Simon Heffer" and his advice to axe our international development budget because charity begins at home. Simon Heffer is a right-wing columnist on The Telegraph who hates the Cameron project almost as much as his left-wing firebrand father Eric. Some say Simon isn't heir to Eric – but their pathological loyalty to the same cause makes that unlikely. "You get schooling enough to knock seven bells out of them sodding toffs when you grow up, young Sime, and make yer old da' proud." And so it has happened.

NB: A little routine, rehearsed to performance level between Chris Bryant and the Speaker. "I'm glad you're getting short with ministers," the member for Rhondda said. He was (I'm sure he'll forgive the expression) the straight man in the exchange. The Speaker replied that he was short with everyone because he was short and he was happy to be so. It was to make light of the previous day's exchange when a Tory minister had described him as "a stupid, sanctimonious dwarf".

Is it good form for a speaker to rehearse parliamentary exchanges with an MP? Betty Boothroyd's propriety was to avoid socialising with MPs, let alone rehearsing am-dram stunts with them. It's modernisation, I suppose, you can't stop it.