The Sketch: The 'Nowhere Man' returns – with nothing memorable to say

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The Independent Online

Tory vignettes from PMQs. Iain Duncan Smith stood at the bar masticating wildly. I hope he was masticating, as the whole lower part of the face was rotating in two different planes and his eyes were shining with some secret knowledge. If I said there was a touch of the Desmond Swayne about him I hope you won't think I'm being rude about Desmond Swayne.

Nick Clegg, honorary Tory – or possibly dishonorary Tory – had an absent look about him. The stunned mullet. He doesn't look as though he's joining in any more. They do need to give him a little victory soon.

And the top Tory, Cameron himself, played his man a little too hard. When he came back from his multi-lateral, supranational shindig the other day he did look suspiciously flushed. A little over-excited and not in a healthy way. Is it possible he is starting his ascension a little early?

He certainly treated Ed Miliband as an insect-level irritant. He told him he'd been elected by and paid for by a Militant Tendency union leader on 17 per cent of the vote, that he knew "nothing about anything" and was "the Nowhere Man of British politics". That was a bit rude, wasn't it? A bit de haut en bas? A bit "Tiny fools!" He's not chewing the same stuff as Iain Duncan Smith is he?

Those with a fine eye for these things said EDM did better than before. I couldn't see the difference. The forearm pumping up and down, the thumb on top of a girlishly closed fist. Up and down, up and down. Whoever's pulling his strings is going to get RSI. Without reading notes taken at the time it's not easy to remember anything he said. That thing about the evil penguin going to the moon – that was a little dream from a micro-snooze snatched in the middle of one of his longer questions.

Suffice it to say there were cutbacks in sporting projects funded by the taxpayer and he was against them. Cameron didn't exactly justify the cuts but was able to suggest that for all the money spent in the last decade, a remarkably low number of pupils were playing sport in and between schools.

EDM, the notes say, then described the Education Secretary as "high handed, incompetent and unfair". This got a cheer from Labour (they seem to think they're on the way now). They may well be. But where?

In the statement on education, Barry Sheerman, the sometime Labour chair of the Education Select Committee, threw a damp blanket over the fierce rhetoric by saying: "It profits no one to believe there's a great political divide" in education. That's not just true, it's useful.

Michael Gove can rest his whole case for reform on one big fact, one that he repeats. Of 80,000 pupils on free school dinners, only 40 got into Oxbridge last year (down from 45 the year before).

And the opposition worry that these free schools will create a two-tier education system!

Andy Burnham, however, made his points with aplomb, confidence and quite a bit of noise. Like Hilary Benn, he has blossomed in opposition. How nice to be able to end without moaning.