The Sketch: Wind of change makes everyone a winner

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The Independent Online

"I'd like to congratulate Barack Obama, whose Scottish ancestry provided the qualities needed to lead a great nation." That was Gordon's version. Cameron's was: "Obama's time in the Bullingdon gave him the best insight into what America so desperately needs."

Both phrased these thoughts slightly differently. The Labour construction is that Democrats beat the Republican and the Tories chant "Change! Change! Change!" whenever BO's name is mentioned. But one thing everyone agrees, the new president is a great encouragement for their own party's future.

And how nice to be able to say that both leaders came out of PMQs as winners. Gordon Brown seems to excite less contemptuous indifference than in the previous year. Perhaps because he's found something he can do he seems less petty, less piteous. And Cameron blows around the old chamber like a blue bird of happiness. He is capable of great daring; to think on his feet in that cockpit of PMQs, amid all the noise, heckling, bawling and roaring, where the slightest error or hesitation can ruin a reputation. He says things that aren't on the paper in front of him. That's new politics. That's a change. But even Gordon got off a couple of good ones, though none as good as last week's, "The Tories are not fit for opposition, let alone government". I say this in a spirit of self-interest because he'd nicked the line from a sketch I'd written years ago about the leadership of Iain Duncan Something Or Other. But he moved around the dance floor with the grace and weight of a hippo in a tutu.

When tweaked by Cameron's question, had he told Obama that this was "No time for a novice", Gordon stood up and said, "No, I told him, 'Serious times need serious people'." Whether that made any sense it sounded so neat it had to be good and it brought forth a great roar.

But his general discourse still sounds like something welded together by a metal-worker. "While we fairly take people though the downturn" is one long stupid word now. And he cannot say the chairman of the Defence Committee had approved equipment levels without saying "the Conservative chairman of the Defence committee". It's why the public don't warm to him. Too operational. Too operative.

But he has weight all right. He can even tell Nick Clegg, "tax and spending must add up", while committing hundreds of billions on banks and quibbling over a £20bn tax cut. In the current state of the accounts it's half a crown. Still, it can't last forever. Can it? Or can it?