The Sketch: Miliband is Labour's Mozart - just a shame he chose this career

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The Independent Online

The old, outdated headmaster in Alan Bennett's Forty Years On said: "We don't set much store on cleverness at Albion House." We laughed, of course.

But now it's 40 years on, and I am that headmaster. When I see David Miliband I find myself thinking pejoratively: "He's clever." I find myself thinking as Salieri did of Mozart: "Too many notes." He's got a brain like a termite mound; push a stick in and see what activity it produces.

But he's a nice fellow and it's a shame he doesn't want to do something useful with his life. Make a difference.

Try to make the world a better place. Become a concert pianist. Discover a new variation in the Ruy Lopez. Something practical. In his current incarnation (surrounded by words, words, words) he is in danger of losing himself.

He has a scheme he's considering. It is so large it will change the whole way we live (are you backing away nervously?). It will change society as profoundly as the introduction of the welfare state.

It's a private carbon trading scheme. Every purchase we make will go into a private carbon account so the consequences of every purchase will be monitored for environmental purposes. That's a good idea, actually. A very good idea. We all think it's a good idea, don't we everyone? (I'll keep him talking and you try and get behind him. Take a plank to hit him with.)

Vince Cable asked him about how the EU Emissions Trading Scheme would be reformed to guarantee the carbon price. If you're normal you won't know about this. Suffice it to say that the level at which carbon price is set determines whether nuclear energy is commercially viable.

Miliband set off into the wilderness of words with a series of linguistic spasms such as: "The key is obviously phase 3 of the scheme after 2012", and "it is significant that the European Commission has said that no caps for phase 2 will be below the current level of emissions so scarcity will be built into the system." Now! The plank, the plank!

Dr Demento has the opposite problem (there's just no pleasing me, is there?). Patricia Hewitt has taught him all there is to know about speaking very, very slowly. On Wednesday he told us how he was going to reform the Home Office using a self-denying ordinance - no more initiatives.

Yesterday he published 1,800 initiatives (I'm guessing a bit there) from parole boards to TV link-ups between courts and police stations to something called "Next-Day Justice".

David Davis looked a bit weary and could hardly do more than go through the motions (he's done this before; often). He held up a copy of The Sun ("Blair Axes Soft Sentences") and compared them with their ancestors every year about this time, year after year:

"Same problems, different ministers," he noted.

sketch@simoncarr.co.uk

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