The Sketch: Like a 'Viz' caricature, Milburn opens his legs and shows his class

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The Independent Online

Too little has been written about Alan Milburn's testicles. Hang on, that diminutive is libellous. The things he's got in there may not even be testes but testissimos. Testeramas, indeed. They must be the size of small tortoises. I wouldn't mention this at all, naturally, but Mr Milburn - election co-ordinator and front runner for next Labour leader but one - comes into the House for PMQs and lays down on the front bench.

Too little has been written about Alan Milburn's testicles. Hang on, that diminutive is libellous. The things he's got in there may not even be testes but testissimos. Testeramas, indeed. They must be the size of small tortoises. I wouldn't mention this at all, naturally, but Mr Milburn - election co-ordinator and front runner for next Labour leader but one - comes into the House for PMQs and lays down on the front bench.

His legs splay open; his knees are literally forced apart by the hulking bulk of such ... orchidacity that you're tempted to call in the surgeons. There was a character in Viz like this, and that's interesting in itself because, with his attractive, jaunty manner and his suit all done up at the front, Mr Milburn looks as though he's been drawn by a Viz cartoonist.

Especially round the mouth, he looks like an affectionate parody of a Beano character. If you can think of a rhyme for "Alan Milburn" we might create a Beano-style strap-line for him to help him on his way.

Now then, by contrast, Michael Howard. Likeable and intelligent as he may be, the Tory leader is in almost every way, the opposite of the rising Mr Milburn. He sits with his legs crossed for one thing. A year in office has unmanned him. Maybe there is truth in the rumour that No 10 has been pushing around (that he wobbled and nearly went a few months ago). He even used his predecessor's tiresome line in regard to the Prime Minister: "Nobody believes a word he says!" As this view is now attributed to the Chancellor it should have force. But the Tories have only to say something for us to lose interest in it.

Tony Blair defied us to say anything other than that the NHS was better than it was in 1997. Even after taking into account the multibillions wasted, the statistical fiddling, the incompetence and overspending and faffing about - the one thing about that particular statement of Mr Blair's is that it is true. Perhaps that's why the Government's poll ratings remain so dizzyingly high.

Repeatedly, Mr Howard asked Mr Blair about the quote attributed to the Chancellor. Once, when Mr Howard read it out verbatim Mr Blair leapt on his chance. "That is wrong. He never made that statement." Mr Blair very rarely does anything as straightforward as tell a direct lie. Mr Howard must have misplaced some of the punctuation.

Gordon Brown had almost confirmed the quote the day before and not merely by refusing to deny it. "Did you make the statement?" he was asked in the press pack.

He replied: "I made the statement ... " (brief pause while his mouth did that contemplative blow-hole thing) "on Sunday saying I had complete trust in the Prime Minister ... "

It was almost as orchidaceous as Mr Milburn.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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