Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Finger jabbing good

Everyone's arms must have been aching from all the finger pointing at PMQs today.

Yes, Osbornski had a tough time, we'll come to that.

But I felt most sorry for the poor chap in front of Tory Julia Kirkbride. He was stabbed in the back of the head by her vigourous air-fingering at least twice.

Both Gordon and Dave got in on the act with a bit of neat index-jabbing and Dennis Skinner, the old beast, topped them all with a big leftie swish of his pointed fist.

The session marked a comforting return to political hostilities between the leaders after an awkward period of unity during the banking crisis.

The blues and Dave, sitting on the very edge of his seat, were chomping at the bit to start thumping away at Gordon after a couple of weeks being nice.

In fact the Tory leader went at it so hard that any other week you would have him as the winner, despite a decent performance from the PM.

The old accusations were there - Gordon being unable to answer a question straight, Dave having no policies - but both seemed to be on form.

Unfortunately sitting next to Dave was George - who yesterday was accused of soliciting a £50,000 donation from a Russian billionaire while on-board his luxury yacht.

George denied it all of course and even put out a statement detailing pretty much every conversation he had over the week in question.

Can you pick a week from your summer holiday and remember every conversation you had every night of it? I digress.

While everyone knew the issue was going to come up, the way it eventually reared its ugly head surprised us.

If this had been Blair he would have made some joke about having to steer the country through choppy economic waters - as not everyone had the fortune to sit on a luxury yacht.

There would have been jeers and mortified embarrassment and the PM would have his scalp.

But Brown didn't quite seem to know how to handle it. When he alluded to the shadow chancellor's judgement, no-one was quite sure if he was making a joke or not.

Then Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, while attacking the Government, said the Prime Minister was "all at sea".

People started to laugh and, realising his words would have been better shot at the Tory's, Clegg tried to redirect the joke - but only revealed his lack of forethought.

It was almost as if Osborne had got away with it until Dennis Skinner (complete with swishing fist of fury) stood up and started ranting about Russians.

He raved as a man on the street the likes of which Osborne’s school teachers told him not to talk to.

Everyone cheered and Osborne looked as if he might cry, his lips quivering into an attempted smirk.

Then, just as a bloodthirsty house was baying for a devilishly witty put-down and the final humiliation, Brown stood up and said: "This is a very serious matter indeed and I hope it is investigated by the authorities."

What? But we were just having some fun.

The real problem with it is that nothing illegal has actually happened. Even if George did ask for a donation, it could have been legally given through the Russian's British owned company.

People were simply complaining, justifiably so, about the distaste of the matter.

A Number 10 spokesman was hounded by hacks about the comment afterwards – when asked which allegations Mr Brown had meant he said those made "over the past 24 hours".

When asked which authorities he meant the spokesman said: “Whichever are appropriate.”

It is probably the PM’s mix up, not Mr Osborne’s holiday conversations that will appear in the papers tomorrow. A victory, but a botched one.

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