The Sketch: He fell from power but Hilary has ascended opposition heights

  • @SimonSketch

Here is Hilary Benn rocking or possibly rolling into the House on his peculiar legs. His arms are held out at the elbow like a gunfighter, he carries his big head low at one end while kicking his feet ahead at the other. Full of character, I mean. Tall, rangy, something wrong with his pelvic cradle but that adds to his battle-glamour.

Is this the same fellow who came so low in the deputy leader poll he did not run for leader? He was a minister then and disabled by it. He glared at us in those days, and his head turned left and sharply right in a way that suggested a genetic experiment by Bernard Matthews.

Now in Opposition, he behaves like a completely different person. That is, like a person. It has happened to Andy Burnham as well. You can suddenly see the point of men who'd been place-holding, arse-covering, bench-blocking collectivists. Suddenly they are themselves.

Fluent, mocking, crackling with energy, Mr Benn tears into the Coalition week by week the very day after Ed Miliband has failed to do anything like as well.

He had come in early to hear the writ for the Oldham by-election being contested. There had been some jiggery-pokery behind the scenes about this. I got the jiggery but not the pokery. Labour was going to oppose it and force a debate – but nobody had told Mr Miliband, who was up in Oldham launching the campaign – or in the other version, he had not told them – so Labour suddenly had to decide not to oppose the campaign they had already launched.

The efficiency is virtually Teutonic, isn't it? But human failings bring our representatives closer to their people.

Poor Chris Huhne has travelled a Via Dolorosa in the other direction. He had discovered his voice as a shadow Home Secretary – full of energy and conviction. Now in office, the life has been crushed out of him and he uses that quiet, passive-aggressive drone that defies you to follow what he is saying.

The Speaker himself is a great example of the effects of high office. The popularity he lobbied hard for (how many MPs' hands has he shaken this year?) has suffered a sharp reverse among the new Tory intake. John Bercow's covert flaw that is turning into a blazing vortex is a hatred of Tories. A recommendation for many politicians but not right in a Speaker.