The Sketch: A full investigation is the last thing the Government needs

Simon Carr@SimonSketch
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:28

Our back-from-the-brink PM got a yelp of welcome from one of his bench monkeys. He's back on form. Dogged. Sullen. Random, wolfy grin. And, at the end of every answer, a punch, a poke in the eye, a political point. That got him in trouble at the end.

Neither he nor Cameron wanted the question of dodgy donations to come up. The Tories may look vulnerable but Gordon doesn't come out of the Ecclestone affair as any straighter than his predecessor.

Cameron instead ventured into a course of psychotherapy. Why is the PM in denial? Why can't he admit how deep in debt we are? Why can't he admit he failed to abolish boom and bust? Why doesn't he admit he likes being dressed in nappies and chastised by a woman in a blue and white apron? (Faulty shorthand, sorry.)

Cameron never got an answer but he didn't want one. He's not trying to penetrate the PM's armour, just to dramatise how thick and heavy the armour is he feels he has to wear. In truth, that is Brown's great weakness.

There were three pointing contests, the last of which was won by the Tories. Challenged by Gordon "to recognise the cause of the crisis" they delightedly responded with a hundred stretched forefingers and a chorus of, "You! You are!" I don't know what it did for you at home but it made everyone in the chamber very happy.

Then Dennis Skinner was called. Pale with one or more unidentifiable emotions, he yelled a collection of words – Russian billionaire, cadge, yacht, never, sleazy – and prompted Gordon into what many are saying was a blunder.

"This is a very serious matter," he said, "and I hope it is investigated by the authorities".

Outside, in the aftermatch huddle, the PM's spokesman was entirely at a loss to explain this. Legally there's nothing to investigate. Even the "serious matter" was in doubt. What were the allegations? Is Gordon saying Osborne lied?

It was the poor boy's third day in the job and he took a very long time to say he had nothing to say. But, look. Peter Mandelson has scored a stunning volte face in this matter. In the Ionian pointing contest he has won a famous victory. But if Gordon gets his "full investigation" it can only start going the other way. Mandelson's name is attached to £200m of aluminium tariff gains. His wealthy friends have lost billions in the crash. The Rothschild reaction is far too detailed, pointed, damaging to be a response to a lapse of manners. It is a shot at destroying an old friend in order to protect... well, who knows? A "full investigation" is the last thing the Government needs, so we can only hope.

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