The Sketch: Gordon left totally clackered by Kelvin

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The Independent Online

On the way down to PMQs I saw a news screen showing people climbing around the roofs of the Palace of Westminster. Getting involved in politics, as requested by the Government. They looked like they were enjoying themselves. That doesn't often happen when you're doing what the Government tells you to do. Jolly good!

Kelvin Hopkins is one of the jungle's smaller mammals. Lefty. Small beard. Luton. You'd know him if you saw him. He voted against the 90 days' detention Bill and in punishment, the whips took him off the European scrutiny committee (which he loved) and put him on the Crossrail hearings (which nobody could love). Propped up in the corner was the decomposing corpse of the Count of Monte Cristo, that's how bad the sentence was.

So everyone likes Kelvin, especially yesterday after his kick-off question. He began with the Parliamentary Labour Party enthusiastically voting to nationalise a bank. (Some cheering. The PM buried himself in his papers.) After the agency worker debate, Hopkins continued, Labour MPs assembled in the lobby for a team photo and sang the Red Flag. (Much stronger cheering, Tory delight, hard left delight, universal cries of "More!" Faint underlying sound of teeth grinding.) "With more of the same, he will lead us to a famous victory at the election!" Order papers fluttered. Applause from everyone, especially the Conservatives. The dental grinding stopped abruptly. The PM was on his feet. His lower jaw moved rapidly up and down in a way that has no word. It blattered, perhaps. Or was it clackering?

He was thinking of something to say. Had he not been given notice of Kelvin's question? Maybe not, it didn't look like it. What would have Blair made of it? Oh, what wouldn't he have made of it. He'd have accepted the embarrassment gracefully, made a deft joke about the Red Flag, rearranged the propositions slightly to make them his own and sent them over at the Tories in a fearsome little package to put them on the wrong side of the argument.

While you've been reading this, Gordon's lower jaw has still been doing that peculiar thing. Placulating, perhaps? Is that a word? His answer was familiar, boring and vacuous variations on "we were right".

David Cameron's rhetorical strategy is to place the Prime Minister on another planet, and he gets more help than he should from the PM himself. The prime ministerial reply to a question about MPs' pay concluded with these words: "Decisions should be made in this House, not on the roof!"

"What? Excuse me? I beg your pardon? Who do you think is making decisions on the roof?" Cameron was wise not to say that, I suppose. The PM is too easily cast as a victim on these occasions.