Wednesday, January 06, 2010

David Heath: the man who made Gordon Brown laugh

When you're feeling the pressure, maybe if your work colleagues are winding you up, for example, it can be really great if someone unexpected comes along and just makes you laugh, even if they're having a go. After all, whoever said laughter was the best medicine had a point.

That's what it was like for notoroiusly dour Prime Minister Gordon Brown today. For a man who was again having to dodge the slings and arrows of outraged Blairites, he managed to land a few punches on David Cameron at PMQs but it was an uninspiring display from both men.

Nick Clegg upped the quality a bit with a clever question on taxes - asking how the PM could go on about aspiration when the 20% poorest people paid proportionally more in tax than the 20% richest.

The star of the show, though, was David Heath, Lib Dem MP for Somerton and Frome and a long time hero of mine. Asking about Labour's lack of progress on Commons reform, with characteristic wit and with enough passion to melt all the snow in the land, he said that the Labour Government had all the speed of an "arthritic slug on the way to its own funeral." Now, let's not be pedantic and start lecturing on slug anatomy, it was a very funny line and Brown was still laughing as he replied to David that the cross party consensus was useful. It was the sort of exchange we don't see enough of - witty, spontaneous and effective.

I think it was definitely the best line at PMQs since the Almighty Vince's "Stalin to Mr Bean."

It certainly brought a bit of levity to the PM's day before he had to go and deal with the Hoon and Hewitt letter. Geoff Hoon, of course, is facing a very strong Liberal Democrat challenge in his seat, so it's hardly surprising he's turning to desperate measures.

I may be proved wrong this time next week, but I doubt anybody will want to try to take on the job of leading Labour into a very risky election so I think this will go down as yet another attempt by Blairites to undermine Gordon Brown and just fizzle out.

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