The Sketch: Tantrums and tiaras, but Labour have really lost their sparkle

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The Independent Online

There was a small but observable increase in tiaras in the House of Lords. It may or may not mean the return of the Cavaliers, but we've certainly witnessed a rout of the Roundheads.

It would be sad if the Restoration turned this institution into a Senate and gave all its members individual seats and little worky-worky desks and internet access. But if anyone succeeds in taking the gilt out of the legislature it will be these gilded youths, because the biggest crimes are committed in the family.

The Lords were all packed in like a national scrum, red-robed backs bent forward. Black tights, red lions, white wands, pretty page boys with ruffs, a Queen. A proper Queen. It's so peculiar it takes a reckless, Roundhead spirit to be confident of changing it for the better.

The Queen read out a list of Bills that her Government was going to attempt. They are very dashing. The first one, first up, first out is a statement of daring austerity.

It might cheer the country up, oddly enough. The deficit that Gordon's magical psychosis managed to conceal from the public – that at last is faced squarely. It's out. It's in the public domain. What Cameron said in the Commons is now achieving the status of established fact: "There is no more money left." Liam Byrne's joke has done the country a service. It's language we can understand.

In the Commons, the Roundheads had a pretty rotten time. The leaderless Labour front bench sat like invalids from the Somme. David Miliband had a 1,000-yard stare, Alan Johnson wore a face of humiliation, Ed Miliband stroked his upper lip and thought about Rosebud. Hilary Benn sat like a shell-shocked cockerel, his chicken-face showing no awareness of where he was. Nick Brown – well, to be fair to Nick he always looks like that.

Behind, Fiona Mactaggart had been driven insane with grief and screeched fishwifery across the chamber. Her last one was: "You're the Prime minister! Behave like one!"

But in truth, Cameron had done that pretty well. He was confident, commanding – cavalier as it might be said. He rode around the Commons in something of the same way Tony Blair did in happier days.

He also gave Denis MacShane a bloody nose which cheered everyone up, we all like to see that.

MacShane: was the PM going to continue associating himself in Europe with people Clegg had called nutters and anti-Semites. Cameron said in that humorous way: "The answer to that is yes!" And he went on to itemise some of Labour's EU partners – one who thought homosexuality is a disease and another who felt Hitler had had "a really good programme". MacShane's suffocating self-righteousness didn't quite survive the exchange, no doubt it will revive.

The debate had a fine opening speech from Peter Lilley, alternately teasing the coalition members and giving them amiable warning of the differences between them. He drew a comparison between Gordon Brown's mic being left on and John Major's, all those years ago, when he was so rude about the sceptics and, he hoped, the time was coming when you could disagree without being "a bigot or a bastard".

Harriet did fairly well, but Labour is in disarray and will be preoccupied with its leadership for four months before it's settled – and for four years afterwards.

PS: Peter Lilley's wife tried to get into a Downing Street function saying: "I'm one of the ministers' wives!" The policeman: "I couldn't let you in if you were the minister's only wife."