Simon Carr:

The Sketch: With Clegg sidelined, Dave sees off Harriet with genuine warmth

Related Topics

With Edwina Miliband at home on new-baby duties, we expected a battle of the deputies for PMQs. But after last week's gruelling encounter on tuition fees, Nick Clegg was stood down to recuperate and the Prime Minister faced up to Harriet himself.

Hard to know if this was well received by Clegg – he looked a little smaller for the occasion, and marched off at 180 degrees to Cameron at the end of the session in a way an angry son might do. Let's just note that Nick Clegg's high self-esteem is essential to the Coalition and he will need reflating in the workbay. So to Labour's deputy. So loyal, so clever, so sensible: how could Harriet have been so useless? She left her backbenches sitting there like a row of steak-and-kidney puddings with insufficient kidneys.

So loyal: there is no more sincere way of making your leader look good than by making yourself look bad. She must hope he's grateful – or at least know how to spell it.

So sensible: by sounding whiny, she was luring Cameron into an arrogance trap. "Come on: patronise me. I'm a woman you know. I don't really have any right to be here. Did I mention that I'm just a girl, aren't you just itching to be masterful? Come on Big Boy, you know you want to put a lead on me and drag me round the room!"

So clever... well, two out of three ain't bad. More than enough to prepare the ground for the rose-strewn return of Edwina. It must be said, though, that these Labour pleas for whopping housing benefits may look naïve when the world monetary system collapses.

Cameron continues to add texture as the country's greatest office feeds him material. He converted it into a parliamentary performance of courtesy, warmth and sincerity (I wonder who his mechanic is, the man's a genius).

He declined Harriet's gambits, and won the exchanges on policing in Manchester. He read out a list of department headcounts (that exhausted everyone) and repeated the fact that gathers weight with time: just 11 per cent of police force are on the beat at any one time.

Now, the Speaker's progress continues to provide narrative interest. Lacking natural authority, he's finding the business of controlling the Commons complex. He can shout down individuals but he does get swamped occasionally.

Yesterday, a scrum of Labour MPs (ringleaders: Steve McCabe and Denis Macshane, I think) chanted "Coulson! Coulson!" perhaps a dozen times during Cameron's account of how he'd do things differently : there'd be no Spads ordering around civil servants, no Damian McBride smearing MPs' wives, no Alastair Campbell sexing up. "The public hate it!" Bercow said when the chanting was over, but the fact is that Bercow hates it. It makes him look impotent.

Immediately after, he exerted himself on Tory Brian Binley with the words: "He will resume his seat not when he chooses to but when I choose." It's the sort of remark that needs another 50lbs in weight, six inches in height and 25 years of experience to get away with. It provoked an interplay of Tories doing that falsetto playground "Woooo!" as he said "when I choose". There's a first, the Speaker being taunted openly. The up-and-down "Woo!" is only there for one reason: to make the object of attention burst into tears.

Still, it's all just phoney war, for the time being. It's the summer of 1914, before the Archduke was shot. We must take what amusement we can.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.  

The Only Way is Ethics: The birth of a royal baby will not top the news for long

Will Gore
Mosul falls: Talk of Iraq retaking the town, held by IS since June, is unconvincing  

Isis on the run? The US portrayal is very far from the truth

Patrick Cockburn
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk