The Sketch: When David tells a joke, his pals walk out

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But humility of itself doesn't produce remorse. Unfortunately for our spiritual health, the unfair and unkind judgement turns out to be right. Mr Davis reacted to the setback in an enduringly Tory way. He fired his media handlers.

That was decisive, at least, but they weren't the problem. Davis went on to dismiss the problem as a spot of passing weather. He called his opponent "a charlatan" over the weekend, thereby breaking his own Conference Commandment 'Thou shalt not speak ill of another Conservative".

Now, the cruellest thing David Cameron can do is to say something kind about David Davis. The question thus becomes: is Cameron as nice as we think? If so, he'll say something really horrible about David Davis to let him off the hook on which he slowly twists.

Yesterday, as fortune would have it, Davis was first up at the dispatch box, leading for his party in Home Office questions. A big turnout behind him, their numbers clocking in somewhere in the mid-60s. He knew what Labour were going to do; he was expecting interruption and it reliably appeared. He let them go on for a bit, nodding, as if to say, "You won't be laughing in a minute, chumps."

Then he stepped back and let them have it. "Heckling!" he said, "Ho yes, heckling! Tories! At our conference, we allow heckling!" Was that it? "We allow heckling"? That had been one he prepared earlier, remember? Bear in mind that 600 detentions had taken place at Brighton under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (satirical T-shirts got particular attention). You don't have to try very hard to make a number of large points about that.

Backbenchers started to peel away. Actually, so did his front bench. Cheryl Gillan left halfway through the session. Behind him they went off one by one in alphabetical order (Baldry, Bellingham, Brazier). Halfway through the questions there were just 28 Tories behind him.

Behind the Speaker's chair, he talked to the Home Secretary. One hand played with his middle button; the other hovered up by his shoulder pointing away somewhere else. I found myself thinking that prime ministers just don't stand in that complicated, quizzical way.

The thing is, real debate should be - and maybe is - happening in other parts of Westminster while we watch the tortuous Tories. Maybe it's our democratic duty to ignore them instead.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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