Last week, the Sketch spent 400 words on Ed Miliband's water-pouring skills. As part of basic leadership training it was noted that leaders in Parliament are better not to pour their own glass of water. An underling – Ed Balls's name came up – would naturally do the job for his boss. Five days later, Ed Miliband went to the PLP and the first thing he did was to pour a glass of water for Ed Balls.
The poor boy, he won't be told.
In contrast, the hog himself. The Labour front bench yesterday was packed; Ed Balls chose his point of entry between Angela Eagle and Mary Creagh. He stood before them, bent forward and signaled them to move apart, his praying hands moving apart in that indicative way. When they failed to obey, he turned round and sat on them. Straight down his big muscular rump went, on to their laps.
His hindquarters forced their thighs apart and found a way through to the bench. And then with the power and passion of a physical contact sportsman, he rammed himself towards the back of the bench to get his shoulders against the green leather.
The Tories were impressed. It was the closest thing they'd seen to a fight in the House. And Balls clearly emerged victorious, though the odds were against him two to one. No one could complain, it was equality in action.
Then the Leader of the Opposition answered his critics. Everyone agrees he wasn't as bad as the week before. On reflection, savouring the aftertaste, he may have been worse. First, he read out six questions off a press release he hadn't written. Second, the issue was framed in a way that would win the Geek of Geek's competition for the geekiest question of the year. "Let me explain it," he began. "Because the Government are stopping contributory employment and support allowance after a year for those in work-related activity..." Third, he said the 7,000 cancer patients who were going to lose £94 a week had "worked hard all their lives and done the right thing and paid their taxes..."
But there are lazy people with cancer, and tax evaders with cancer, and people with cancer who do the wrong thing. By saying "cancer" he hoped to establish a mood of respectful piety (he failed). And fourth: the two cancer victims I've known well were back at work three months after their major surgery. I'm not sure either of them would warm to Ed's use of their misfortune.
PS: A colleague suggests that Labour quietly gets rid of Ed and puts in David. No one would notice. People would just go: "Is it just me, or has Ed Miliband got better looking suddenly?"