The Sketch: Five-year-old themes met with cheers of five-year-olds

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The Independent Online

This just in, a double-sourced story (Tom Tittle and Tony Tattle have been working overtime). I hear that Downing Street isn't exactly briefing against our young Foreign Secretary, but they do warmly listen to and gently encourageadverse commentary.

We suddenly get a glimpse of the strategy. Those whom Gordon wants to destroy are first made Foreign Secretary. It's started already.

In the House, the Prime Minister returned, with a great show of confidence, to his themes. How his back benches cheered. It was a triumph. For Geoff Hoon. The chief whip takes the credit for all spontaneous displays of loyalty. Hoon's personal standing has never been higher. Everyone wants to be nice to him. That must take some getting used to for Geoffrey. The man's at the height of his confidence.

Conversely, when you see Ed Balls in the aftermath of the election decision, you fear that myxymatosis has jumped the species barrier. It's amazing what happens in a week.

When David Cameron rose, we heard a very odd noise from some Labour MP. Some felt it was a squeak or a peep. Others a squeal. Others again a miaow. I thought it might be Angela Eagle changing her mind. It was part of the farmyard assault that only happens when the House is in its best mood.

They cheered, jeered, pointed and mewed. It hasn't been as noisy as this since the days of William Hague. Five-year-old themes ("and he voted against it") were greeted with the cheers of five-year-olds. The new politics looks very like the old.

The Prime Minister looked perfectly all right. True, he was as clumsy as usual, incapable of thinking on his feet, still smiling in the wrong places (C.difficile deaths prompted one of his biggest grins), and still making bizarre rhetorical flourishes ("Do people want jobs or a £6bn black hole?"). But he was perfectly alright saying the same things they've been saying ever since I've known them.

The best moment was an instant of silence and stillness from Cameron: "Call an election," he said and gave one of those nods and stares that you see just before a fight breaks out. But I'm afraid we'll have to wait.

PS: A report was published yesterday from Standards and Privileges on the "Conduct of Martin Salter". He was accused of paying for £700 worth of partypromotional material from public funds.

He had said of this sort of behaviour in Parliament: "We have all been breaking the rules. Let's be honest – we have all been at it, and I more than most because it is common sense to do it."

He was found guilty by the committee. And, far from being made to make good this misuse of public money, was assured that he believed he'd been acting properly.

The Old Boys network of 1955 couldn't have put it any better.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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