The Sketch: Incapability Brown lost in translation. Again

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The Independent Online

It wasn't clear if they – government members after PMQs – were joking or not. "Things can only get bitter," one said. "Our core vote is 17 per cent," said another. "I thought it was one of his better performances," a minister of state topped them all.

Gordon was ridiculous. Cameron started to ask him about duty on cars being backdated by seven years, and the PM switched on his famous grin. It makes him look not alien exactly, but implacably foreign. "Ah, zee 'joshing', ya? I am unterstanting. It is necessary now in zee casual manner to be smiling. So. And now, no. Is goot, I sink?"

While Bill Wiggin was asking a satirical question about making nuisance phone calls ("a metallic voice that won't hang up" etc) the PM was... taking notes. "Aha! Ziss vill show how seriously it is to be taken, zee listening to ozzers."

But when Sharon Hodgson from Gateshead teed him up with a friendly question to explain a key part of his 42-days proposition, he ignored her. "Zee accent you haff been using iss not English, ya? So I vill now be speaking zee 42-day words you all haff been hearing many times. So. Is good, I sink?"

Cameron's easy manner is all the more English in comparison. He gets more relaxed every week. On the detail of the controversial car tax, Gordon rejected the charge that 81 per cent of cars (a Treasury figure) would be more heavily taxed. He said 24 out of 30 top models would be taxed the same or more lightly. But, Cameron rejoined, only because cars like the Ford Focus are treated as one model though it actually has 40 variations. "Dodgy statistics," he said. "If a company director tried this, the authorities would be after him."

As Labour barracking got under way (they had a slow start) he laughed: "I don't know why they're shouting at me; it's the PM who has given them the lowest poll rating since Michael Foot." That shut them up.

He jabbed and jibed and landed some blows that didn't clunk, but must have hurt nonetheless. "How is it green," he asked, "to tax a car that was bought five years ago?" And "green taxes have to be offset by reductions in family taxes". And "if he doesn't get rid of this tax, his backbenchers will probably get rid of him."

The thing is, Cameron sounds like a human, not a machine politician crossed with a Teutonic computer program.

PS: Boris asked a valedictory question (he's leaving to spend more time with his capital). The PM said: "He vill much be missed, ya? For all his funny articles vich zey paid him so much, ya? Vot? Zis is zer 'joshing' like you like to do, I sink!"