"You can't imagine them going into No 11, can you?" I asked one of my longer-serving colleagues in the gallery. We were looking down on the Tory front bench. Squeaky George, Sillier Villiers, Someone I'd Never Seen Before. "No, but you couldn't imagine Labour doing that before they got elected," he replied. "What a lot of riff-raff they were! Now they look quite used to it all, don't they?" The Tory Paul Goodman gave a little example of this transformative effect in action. You should try and get a glimpse of Goodman. They call him Mr Bean, for obvious reasons. But in motion, he walks like a discreet, respectably homosexual gents' shop assistant c1964. However, when he stands up to the despatch box he changes entirely. He becomes muscular, direct and indignant like France's fiercest investigative magistrate.
Yes, it's amazing what position does to people. If not to John Healey: office can only dignify so much. With his long, ill-favoured face he never looks more impressive than Leonard Rossiter in Rising Damp. Not bad, you say, when you consider what he has to work with? You're probably right.
Gordon without office would be a poor creature; he'd get by, of course, with the benefits available. Dawn Primarolo might have a future as an Egyptian slave girl (she was auditioning for the part on Wednesday's front bench). Ed Balls I've got down as a gym instructor. Stephen Timms I think would really like to be a crane driver (that's a shot in the dark). But there they are, office has transformed them. They are financial colossi, deploying £500bn a year, they're the most powerful financial ensemble in Europe. A dozen of our biggest company directors would hardly make up the fingernail clippings of the Chancellor.
And next time but one it'll be this other lot.
Treasury Questions is very lightweight, I fear. Squeaky George only raises the pitch. The Chancellor in Europe "is like a vegetarian turning up to a Beefeater's club!" he told us. I don't wish to know that! Then kindly leave the stage! The to and fro over our £500bn is hardly worth while.
The Chancellor was unable to start an answer without abusing or ridiculing his opponents in the most childish way. If he's going to behave like a sketch writer why can't I have a go at being Chancellor? I could make time on Fridays. I'd reduce corporation tax to 10 per cent and go to lunch to write a favourable sketch of myself. Next year I'd do something just as brilliant.
Credit to the Speaker: he collaborated with the Opposition and "drew two questions down" (technical term). It forced the Chancellor to give more attention to his Efficiency Savings Review, or whatever duplicitous title he's given it. Life is too short to go into it further.