Good grief, who was this thrusting go-getter purposefully panther-padding his way into the Commons on the stroke of midday, chest puffed out like a winter robin?
Why, only Sir Edward Davey, jowly Parliamentary bore and latest leader of the Liberal Democrats.
Swagger is not a word one would normally associate with Sir Ed. On his rare forays into the Commons, he usually possesses the leaden tread of a trundling cart horse. From his wan, achingly earnest visage, one would think the sun never shines nor the sky ever be blue.
Yet to watch his stately arrival at PMQs yesterday was to see a pencil-moustached gigolo strutting along the cobbles of the French Riviera.
The eyebrows were arched, the gait loose and cocky. For a moment I thought he might even toss his jacket over one shoulder and begin whistling a Kenny G saxophone solo.
Sir Edward Davey, jowly Parliamentary bore and latest leader of the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems’ surprise victory in last week’s Chesham and Amersham by-election has suddenly put a spring in Davey’s sandals
Yet to watch his stately arrival at PMQs yesterday was to see a pencil-moustached gigolo strutting along the cobbles of the French Riviera (pictured, Prime Minister Boris Johnson)
The Lib Dems’ surprise victory in last week’s Chesham and Amersham by-election has suddenly put a spring in Davey’s sandals. What a wonderfully restorative elixir winning is.
Even when he got to ask a question during the session, his summons from the Speaker’s chair was greeted with respectful silence rather than the customary laughter. Believe me, this hasn’t happened for a while.
Meanwhile, over on the government benches the fall-out from last week’s night of ridicule continues to resonate. Members have taken one look at the Chesham result and gulped. Occupants of those so-called Tory strongholds are feeling jittery. One issue acting like an electric cattle prod to their smalls is HS2, the countryside-ruining rail line which Davey and his colleagues so effectively exploited last week by voicing opposition to it.
This, having backed the project at the last election of course.
The Lib Dems’ surprise victory in last week’s Chesham and Amersham by-election has suddenly put a spring in Davey’s sandals
Rob Butler (Con, Aylesbury), whose constituency neighbours Chesham, reckoned money would be better spent improving local rail links in the area.
Esther McVey (Con, Tatton) went further. She suggested the project was ‘no longer value for money’ and it was time to put ‘this white-elephant project out of its misery’.
Incidentally, before the session began, I spotted Esther behind the Speaker’s Chair being spoken to by one of the government whips, possibly attempting to persuade her to tone down her remarks a bit. Brave man, if so. Feisty Esther is not without gumption.
Spooking Tories, too, is the forthcoming planning bill, which aims to make it easier for developers to build new homes.
Steve Double (Newquay) feared it would result in a raft of expensive houses in Cornwall that would only be affordable to wealthy second home-owners. The Cornish, in case you hadn’t noticed, are not mad keen on outside folk.
Meanwhile, Theresa Villiers (Con, Chipping Barnet) raised the spectre of the proposals affecting residents’ rights to have their say on what’s built in their area.
Throughout these contributions, Sir Ed sat there jabbing his finger at Boris, excitedly pulling elasticated faces. A nurse on hand might have been tempted to jab a wooden spoon between his molars to prevent orthodontic damage.
It was interesting that Sir Ed actually managed to rile the Prime Minister far more than Sir Keir Starmer, who, radiating lawyerly confidence, gave Boris a rough time over rape convictions which have fallen to a record low.
Ben Bradshaw (Lab, Exeter) appeared to have been summoned from his west country hidey hole to cause a particularly rowdy din. Face masks render all heckles indecipherable which is a pity. Ben’s are usually delightfully acrid.
At one point, clearly chafing under interrogation, the PM harrumphed: ‘They jabber, we jab’.
Oh dear. This led Labour’s Jess Phillips (Lab, Birmingham Yardley) to accuse him of not taking the issue of sexual violence against women seriously.
Labour later followed up with a demand for an apology for his ‘disgraceful’ remark but No 10 insisted the PM was making a broader attack on Labour’s tendency to talk about issues but not act.
After the Speaker had called time, Boris escaped for an early lunch. Sir Ed soon followed, presumably to go and prepare for government.