The Sketch: Hague floors Harman in Commons clash

Hague came off weak ground and flattened her with the right mix of argument, wit and yelling
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The Independent Online

Hard to say what Michael Foot would have made of it. He has certainly risen above party politics now. Was he looking down with the infinite tenderness of the recently departed? The scene could have done with some of that. A bit of infinite tenderness would certainly have hit the spot.

Harriet was standing in for the PM and seemed to do well at the time – but only because of the noise in the Chamber. The bench monkeys were in appalling high spirits.

But in fact, Hague came off weak ground and flattened her. It was the right mix of information, invective, argument, wit and yelling. He hasn't been as good as this for years. Mind you, he hasn't been the underdog for years.

But it's often the way – it's not the big punch that wins but the counterpunch.

Maybe she had set this up, calling him the "foreign secretary" twice, as a feint to tempt him to remark on it in order to question – with great emphasis – whether he'd be in his position after the election. Why not? There was a question mark over his integrity (his answers on Ashcroft).

Integrity! That caused an uproar. The Speaker struggled to keep any sort of control of proceedings.

But Hague had an even better punch coming. "The real party funding issue" – not that it was – "is the power of the union Unite. It is bankrolling the Labour party, wrecking British Airways, and its deputy general secretary, her husband [Mr Harriet Harman, aka Jack Dromey], has just gone through an all-woman shortlist to be selected to stand for Parliament." His integrity! Her husband! These were very high stakes they were playing for.

"She may not want to recognise marriage in the tax system but she sure does in the political system." Roars! Laughter! Pointing!

When she returned to have another go on Ashcroft, he rejoined with a warning about the glass house she was living in: "She'll want to explain the position of Lord Paul who was made a privy counsellor after he bought 6,000 copies of the Prime Minister's book on courage... And a party that took half a million pounds from a non-dom hedge fund manager called Bollinger! Champagne socialism is alive and well in the Labour party!"

Harriet got the price of government bonds mixed up with the value of sterling (she's so girly about money) and gave a rotten answer to Eleanor Laing's question – why has manufacturing under Labour declined faster than under any administration, ever?

She began: "That is typical of the Tories!" What? "Talking Britain down!" Ohhh!

Maybe that's why the Government front bench looked so glum. They realised that in the event of a hung parliament – or anything like it – Labour would be nuts to get rid of Brown.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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