The Sketch: Giddy Osborne falls from great height

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The Independent Online

Old wine; old bottles; new labels. Jack Straw is now Leader of the House and not the first House leader to have descended from the Foreign Office. He was widely liked in the Commons, with his easy manner, his flashing, Middle Eastern fingers, and the deft, if ungentlemanly, way he kicked Condoleezza Rice out of her own bed.

A question about the local election results produced the following exchange: Jack Straw: "I've got two things to say about that." Tory heckle: "You. Lost!" Jack Straw: "That's the first thing."

You can't imagine Geoff Hoon saying that. He would have stood on his dignity (and sunk out of sight). "I shall treat that remark," he would have riposted, "with all the respect it deserves. That is," (to remove any ambiguity) "none!" Straw gives heckles the same status as interventions, and takes them all. If he ever wants to do anything parliamentary, you could imagine a consensus springing up around him. Especially if he tells us the real story of Iraq.

What about the problem of John "Cocktail Sausage" Prescott? A Tory asked why there is no fringe-benefit tax on the salary drawn by the man we now know as the Deputy Prime Penis? He costs a lot, we get very little for it. But then, as John Maples pointed out earlier, the less we get from him, the better.

There's no doubt we're getting screwed but at least we don't realise it's happening.

The Chancellor looked and sounded more relaxed than he has for ages. Maybe they've got his medication right. Maybe he feels greater certainty about his future. I came into the chamber late and heard him saying: "The timetable has been agreed." His future is indeed much more certain. He will inherit the premiership. The polls will plummet. He'll hate it. He'll chew his fingernails down to the wrist. And Labour will wonder what on earth they've done getting rid of their Chosen One, their Saviour.

Giddy Osborne unerringly chose the wrong line of attack. The Chancellor diagnosed this: "I don't think he should be dining out on the British economy falling apart under Labour." Ignobly, the Tories are longing for a recession in order to be able to beat the Chancellor with our mortgage misery. The way to attack Brown has been spelt out by the Prime Minister. State intrusion. Too many instructions. Too much interference. Too much central omniscience. The PM's advice on matters like this is always the best.

NB: Ed Balls, the Chancellor's apprentice, is on the Treasury front bench.

At least Tony has more than one crony. Balls committed a constitutional outrage by attacking a celebrity. Worrall Thompson, he said, should "stick to cooking". By his own logic, Balls should have stuck to the shadows. His only real job is psychological crutch for the Chancellor.