The Sketch: Left to right, and back to front

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The Independent Online

It's too heavy to get angry, so let's sit in this fridge and wonder why the Gordon Balls axis of persuasion makes us so hot under the collar.

The speaking style explains half of it, more than half. They are megaphone men. They address us as if we were a public meeting. They hector us, they bellow masterfully, they stand above us with Mussolini chests and manful gestures. The virility makes us (as the Americans say) their bitches. I'm sorry, I'm not used to that. And I don't like it.

Second: everything they say. People veer away from their speeches. We lean back. We resist getting involved. Because their entire political rhetoric is based on a few rotten principles. The first is: "I'm right and they're wrong." That principle is so important it comes before party, policy or personal differences.

If that sounds flip, consider the Prime Minister yesterday. He announced his big idea for patients. If the NHS can't provide an operation in a timely fashion, we will get it in the private sector and the state will pay. The last time this idea was mooted, its author was Liam Fox and it was called the Patients' Passport. It was denounced and derided by Labour as a right-wing evil "taking money out of the NHS to pay for rich people to jump the queue".

Now Gordon introduces it as his idea without any suggestion of a change of mind because that would contradict principle two: "Everything I've ever done has always been right and everything they've ever done has always been wrong."

Gordon now treats the lie as a state tool, but this is such a stupid one it repels even his supporters.

Ed Balls is in the same mould. He may even have made the mould. So, he tells us that the education system has changed out of recognition and is incomparably better than it was 12 years ago. That was right and it's also right to "transform" it now because... because the Tories were wrong. Yes, they had always been wrong, with their stupid "report cards" and elitist "tutoring".

But in the same way that Tory cuts are evil while Labour cuts are "efficiency gains", so Balls now pushes report cards and tutoring as government's new big ideas.

Will any of his plans get off the drawing board? As David Laws asked, how will a parent actually get the "guaranteed" tutoring if it's denied them by the school? An appeal to the complaints authority, then the ombudsman, then to the minister himself, and finally by judicial review. Mr and Mrs Feral and their daughter Miss Knifecrime seek judicial review following a disappointing review of their value-added skills base.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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