The Sketch: From his cheery demeanour, I'd say he's already accepted defeat

Click to follow
The Independent Online

He likened himself to a man on a high wire (that's new). But Dear Leader is reminding me more and more of something altogether grander.

Brad Pitt playing a classical hero. Horatio on the bridge perhaps, brandishing his fearsome weapon (that smile is certainly sharper than it was). The enemy is coming at him in endless waves and still he takes the time to make us laugh. Three times we laughed - with, not at. You should have been watching, there may not be many more opportunities.

From his cheerful demeanour, his powerful convictions and his entirely reasonable arguments - I'd say he's already factored in his demise. He has placed himself in the lap of the gods. Unfortunately, Baal was the duty god at the time. It's all about the Education Bill, aka the soul of the Labour Party.

He began with a page of comforting statistics. They were brilliantly chosen to prove that 1) Education had improved enormously in this country and that 2) British education is a disgraceful and disgusting failure. The statistics are so debauched, incidentally, that both propositions are plausible.

Results have indeed improved (by excluding difficult subjects, encouraging easier vocational exams, and pupil-friendly marking); however, illiteracy, innumeracy and a diet of dogs is rife among our feral fellow Britons (it's a big tent).

But the PM's not shying away from the fight; he took the trouble to bring up John Prescott's contribution to the debate by calling him a "thundering, lumbering, thick-headed, dim-witted, lardy-dardy-arsed lump of activated suet with an IQ half the national average registered by King Edward potatoes."

That is, he was about to say that when other impatient words queue-jumped into his mouth. He was referring to Prescott's Law: the trouble with good schools is that everyone wants to go to them that's why we can't be having them. "You can't sell that to the British public," Mr Blair remarked. He's surely right. But with his deputy, his Welsh predecessor and at least 35 die-in-a-ditch rebels looking for a casus belli, I don't see how he can win this, choking the breech with English dead as he will.

How did he feel about (shudder) Conservative support? "I'm entirely relaxed about my opponents agreeing with me," he said. But he also added (gracefully, considering the circumstances): "I don't want to be unkind but I'm not laying bets on Conservative support. They may be looking at this tactically as well as strategically."

So there are the Tory riding instructions, direct from the trainer. David Cameron is doing outstandingly well in this so far, especially with the daring support for abolition of grammar schools. After all, who abolished more than any other British minister? Mrs Thatcher. And so we move cheerfully into the final days. They look familiar, but then it's not the first time we've been here.